2 Kaiser Northern California hospitals divert ambulances amid worker strike

Emergency departments at Kaiser Permanente's Northern California hospitals in Modesto and Manteca are not receiving ambulance patients while a strike continues, according to ABC affiliate KXTV and NBC affiliate KCRA.   

San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services, in a Nov. 12 policy memorandum cited by the local stations, notified emergency ambulance service provider personnel and other EMS system stakeholders of the change, which took effect Nov. 15.

"Kaiser Hospital Manteca and Kaiser Medical Center Modesto are not authorized to receive ambulance patients from the field. Patients may not request, and ambulance personnel may not transport patients from the field to either hospital," the memorandum reads.

San Joaquin County Emergency Medical Services Agency Public Information Officer Marissa Matta said the six other hospitals in the county will be available to take patients during this time, according to KXTV. She also said patients shouldn't delay care.

In a statement shared with the local stations, officials with Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente said the decision to divert 911 EMS ambulance traffic from the Manteca and Modesto emergency departments is a precaution because of the potential effects of labor union activity.

"This decision is being continually evaluated by Kaiser Permanente and the county as circumstances change. It is important to note that Modesto is in Stanislaus County and receives very few ambulances from San Joaquin. Our Modesto ED is currently in full operation and receiving ambulances (except for the few that would arrive from San Joaquin County)," the officials said Nov. 16.

Kaiser and the Guild for Professional Pharmacists announced a tentative agreement Nov. 15 for a new three-year contract for pharmacists in Northern California. Kaiser and the Alliance of Health Care Unions also reached a tentative four-year contract on Nov. 13, averting a strike by alliance unions.

Kaiser has not reached an agreement with International Union of Operating Engineers Stationary Engineers Local 39, however, whose members have been striking at Kaiser facilities in Northern California since September.

The stationary and biomedical engineers are concerned about a proposed a wage increase they say will ensure lower pay compared to engineers at other large providers in Northern California, according to The Sacramento Bee. Kaiser, the newspaper reported, said the engineers are among the highest-paid people in their profession based on their total compensation.

Nearly 2,000 Kaiser mental health clinicians, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have announced a potential strike Nov. 19 in solidarity with the engineers. Members of the California Nurses Association are also planning a 24-hour sympathy strike beginning Nov. 19. 

Additionally, on Nov. 18, members of the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, the Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 29, and the Engineers and Scientists of California Local 20 plan to picket, according to The Sacramento Bee.

Overall, about 60,000 Kaiser nurses, psychologists and other healthcare workers in Northern California could be on strike Nov. 18 and Nov. 19, the newspaper reported.

Kaiser told The Sacramento Bee that experienced clinicians will be available at its hospitals, although some procedures may have to be rescheduled.

More information is available on Kaiser's website

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