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Kaiser: Were not closing in Manteca
Nurses contend hospital reductions part of slow death
Kaiser Permanentes Manteca hospital located at 1777 W. Yosemite Ave. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Kaiser Permanente is not closing its Manteca facility. That is the word from Corwin Harper who serves as senior vice president and area manager of the hospital’s Central Valley area.

Manteca Kaiser nurses, however, are maintaining that what the health care corporation has been doing in the past several months is tantamount to a gradual closure of the hospital in Manteca.

They pointed to the following list of services, among others, that they claim have been “taken away” from the Kaiser medical center in Manteca:

• the Medical Surgical Unit which covers an “entire hospital floor” and has been closed;

• ultrasound services in Radiology after 5 p.m. so patients who need emergency ultrasound after hours have to be transferred to other hospitals;

• knee and hip replacement services in Orthopedics;

• colonoscopy and endoscopy for in-patients because the Gastrointestinal Services specialist has been moved to Kaiser in Modesto;

• stress tests on tread mills in Cardiology because the hospital cardiologist also has been transferred to Modesto.

Furthermore, California Nurses Association representative Kevin Hall said that ER patients in Kaiser Manteca “are being transferred at an alarmingly high rate out of Manteca to Modesto Kaiser against their wishes – 1,900 transfers this year alone.”

The nurses’ “greatest concern is the continuum of care (for patients),” Hall said.

“We’re seeing a disruption in patient care,” confirmed Amy Glass, a registered nurse and Manteca resident working at Kaiser Modesto.

“During the past year, Kaiser Permanente, despite making more than $1.2 billion from January to June, has been closing entire sections and eliminating vital services in the Kaiser Manteca Medical Center. Originally founded as St. Dominic’s Hospital by community leaders working for the safety of all residents of our area, Kaiser purchased this vital community asset nearly a decade ago and committed to maintain it as a fully functional hospital,” reads the open letter to “fellow community members” from “your Manteca nurses” titled “Keep Manteca Safe – Kaiser, don’t close our hospital,” a copy of which was obtained by the Bulletin.

The letter went on to invite the public to attend a community forum on this subject to be held Sunday, Oct. 13, starting at 4 p.m. at First Christian Church, 1125 N. Union Road (corner Louise Avenue) in Manteca. They have also invited firefighters and ambulance drivers to attend. As Glass explained it, “if ambulances are tied up at the hospital waiting to pick patients up because we refuse to treat them in Manteca, sometimes there could be a delay in response time to 9-1-1 calls. So this affects the entire community because we’re tying up the ambulances.”

And because of that, Glass said they will welcome to the community forum not only those with Kaiser insurance health coverage but those who are under different medical plans as well.

“The focus of this forum is that vital services which have always been provided to this community from that hospital are not now being provided. We want the community to know that,” and to become involved in restoring full services at the Manteca facility, she said.

“We’re looking for letters, phone calls, to come to this forum to become educated and figure out how we can stand together (as a community),” Glass said.

She pointed out that Kaiser tried to close the Kaiser in Richmond, Oakland and other places. “The nurses took it to the community. Most recently they tried to close Hayward (Kaiser) pediatrics and we fought very hard to keep that open, and it is (open). So we can do this. We need the community to be aware and to fight with us.”

Kaiser Permanente responds

Responding to the above statements from the Manteca members of the California Nurses Association, Harper said that the above “claims about our Manteca facility” are “exaggerated.”

This is just “part of an ongoing labor dispute, …just more of the same from the California Nurses Association union leaders who continue to distort facts and make exaggerated and misleading claims to advance their agenda – even when their actions have the potential to unnecessarily alarm or confuse our members, patients and the communities we serve.”

He went on to explain, “As part of our commitment to quality and affordability, we regularly evaluate the care and services we provide so we can continuously improve our operations – while also making Kaiser Permanente more affordable for our members, patients and the community.

“Part of this evaluation is determining when it is most appropriate to contract with outside facilities to provide specialized services that are not typically provided at acute care hospitals, such as long-term sub-acute care. Kaiser Permanente works closely throughout Northern California with providers who specialize in this type of care, with the single exception of the Manteca hospital, where there is a separate long-term sub-acute care unit inherited when KP purchased the hospital ten years ago. KP was required to maintain the operation of this facility for a period of five years as a condition of the purchase of the hospital – and has operated it for twice the length of time.”

Harper said the hospital has informed their staff about these facts, and that “we are in the process of evaluating whether long-term sub-acute care, which is not KP’s core business, is best provided at specialized facilities that focus on this type of care. We will keep our employees, members and the communities informed as we work through this decision process.”

Manteca Kaiser Permanente has “over 800 employees,” not including doctors, said Edwin Garcia, regional media relations specialist for Kaiser Permanente North Valley (Sacramento-Roseville) and Central Valley which covers Stockton, Tracy, Manteca and Modesto.