David Mallon has advanced degrees in clinical social work and psychology. He has worked as a psychiatric social worker at Kaiser for over 12 years.
Well, It's started! Around 5:30a the staff and members of NUHW started arriving in front of what Kaiser likes to call its "flagship" hospital, Kaiser Sunset or LAMC, Los Angeles Medical Center.
All in front of the hospital on the sidewalk hundreds and hundreds of picket signs were lined up in bundles. These signs stand ready for the great surge of nurses and social workers and psychologists and psych nurses and therapists who would soon arrive to pick them up and take them in long sweeping lines to protest Kaiser weird priorities.
What is the reason for this strike? The nurses at LAMC know how to provide patient care. They know how many patients a nurse can safely care for at one time. And these nurses know you've got to have the right "know-how" to do the job right. Kaiser says it has the right ratio but it speaks with forked tongue: At times, half of the nurses are brought in from outside agencies and they couldn't tell you where a band-aid is located, let alone how to find the emergency room! These nurses aren't trained to work at Kaiser. They are blind to the hospital system and rely on the regular staff nurses to guide them, like seeing eye dogs.
This would seem a weird way to do the business of health care except that by not hiring adequate numbers of regular staff nurses it contributes to Kaiser's huge profits of over 10, 000, 000 dollars a day. Oh, I see, its about money!!! Silly me!
Well, at 6a the nurse strikers have arrived. They pour out of the hospital and have picked up the picket signs which say things like "Dignity and Respect Now!" and "Be Fair to Those Who Care" and Patient Care before Profits" and "Patient Care: It's our Bottom Line." Then there are some slogans which I cannot repeat on a nice blog site like this!
There are bull horns with men and women blaring "Kaiser, Kaiser can't you see? THIS IS A HEALTH CARE EMERGENCY!" and "We are here to Fight, Fight, Fight UNTIL KAISER TREATS US RIGHT!"
Already on the periphery of the long lines the men in suits watch. These are the Kaiser watchers, the management of Kaiser. They've got a worried look on their faces like they've seen this all before. They know this nearly crippled the organization in the 1980's and because Kaiser was recently able to get into bed with SEIU they thought they'd never have to face picket signs and strikes again. Gee, guess they were wrong. Bad to be wrong when you are a manager. Things like bonuses and obscenely high salaries depend on being right and avoiding messes like strikes. Oh, well, live and learn.
I hear tambourines and drums. Lots of chanting. There is anger in these voices. It is the sound of the voices of highly skilled professional people, dedicated health care providers, who have been squeezed by corporate greed to the breaking point. They say they have had enough! They have seen too many of their patients receive sub-standard care while corporate executives rake in the dough. They cannot understand when Kaiser makes nearly a billion in profits in the first quarter of 2011 that those same highly paid executives want to cut these providers own health care benefits! Astonishing, isn't it?
Oh, oh! One of my colleagues is holding an extra picket sign and alternately pointing at me and at the sign. I think that they want me to come join them in the picket line. Well, I guess I'd better do that or I'll get a reputation as a "slacker!" So I'll send another post later in the morning when there is a lull in the action. By then I will have heard from a few of the therapists, dietitians, and other health care pros about why they are striking. More to come!
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