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Kaiser homecare workers fight back to preserve quality care

Homecare workers are fighting back against management’s demand to impose drastic changes to their working conditions.

The approximately 85 medical social workers who provide hospice, palliative and rehabilitative care for Kaiser members in Southern California have already successfully stopped management from unilaterally forcing part-timers to take on more hours or shift to full-time status.

But rather than address a staffing shortage by hiring more social workers, Southern California management is insisting on changes that would significantly burden workers while jeopardizing patient care.

Without ever have engaged in good faith discussions about how best to deal with short-staffing, Kaiser management is requiring homecare workers to:

  1. Work across service lines, so hospice workers would have to treat non-hospice patients, while home health care workers could be assigned hospice patients. Kaiser had previously ended this practice after finding that it was inefficient and bad for patients.
  2. Work across service areas, forcing them to drive throughout large swaths of Southern California to see patients, while potentially putting their licenses in jeopardy since they are credentialed to work out of a specific site.
  3. Download an app that effectively tracks their location and monitors how they’re using their time. In addition to the app, Kaiser is also seeking to restrict workers from using their clinical judgment on scheduling patients.

Kaiser started implementing several of the unilateral changes this month, and workers have been quick to respond. On Aug. 30, stewards participated in a grievance hearing, during which they presented Kaiser management with a petition opposing the changes signed by 83 percent of their colleagues.

“What Kaiser is trying to unilaterally implement will delay care and services, and compromise our licenses,” said Jared Garcia, a home Care Social Worker based in Fontana. “We will never agree to let Kaiser interfere with our ability to use our clinical judgment or diminish and compromise the high quality of care our patients are required to receive. Kaiser needs to fully staff and backfill our services and view us like professional providers if we are going to have a viable chance of solving our chronic understaffing throughout the Southern California (service areas).”

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