Approximately 18,000 nurses went on strike in Northern California to voice concerns about patient-care standards and Ebola. The nurses are in the middle of collective bargaining negotiations for a new contract. Nurses often strike while in the midst of contract negotiations. This time however, the circumstances surrounding the strike are unique. While picketing Kaiser Permanente facilities, they held up signs which stated “Kaiser Open for Premiums; Closed for Safe Patient Care” and “Strike for Health and Safety.” The two-day strike impacted more than 21 Kaiser-owned hospitals and 35 clinics.
The union claimed that the nurses were striking over the lowering of patient-care standards, and that the company has failed to adopt optimal safeguards for Ebola. The union also asserted that the nurses reported many stories about the lack of safety and concern for patients. “This isn’t about money. This is about something much deeper,” the union’s executive director said.
In response, Kaiser said that it was “particularly irresponsible” to strike just when the flu season was starting, and when the nation is concerned about the risk of Ebola. Kaiser disputed the union’s claims, asserting that the reasons the union leaders are giving for walking out are not supported by the facts, wither at the medical centers “or at the bargaining table.” Kaiser used replacement workers in order to remain open.
As the nation wrestles with infectious diseases like Ebola, how the health industry deals with patients and the workforce and their interactions with the public will remain a controversial and evolving drama.