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Suzette Walker, an LVN from Mercy San Juan Medical Center provided testimony on workforce problems. "Understaffing means workplace stress and people getting hurt. It means that quality patient care gets shoved to the side. This isn't about money--- Anyone who does this work knows you have to have your heart in it." She made the point that we need the hospitals to train and compensate workers with benefits like improved pensions and retiree health care so that they will stay in our hospitals.


  Ellen Dillinger, a medical transcriber in Imaging Services at Mercy General spoke of the staffing shortages among Imaging Services techs. Describing Imaging tech burn-out due to understaffing, she said "At a time when hospitals need to attract MORE techs, not discourage the ones they have, employers need to look at what could be done to make someone WANT these job and choose to stay in them."

  The "New Directions in Hospital Care Forum" audience included Nikki Sparks and her husband (wearing purple SEIU shirts, center) from Mercy Folsom, and many home care workers. All are affected by the healthcare crisis.


Colleen McKeown, a Senior Operations leader at Kaiser Permanente, described how Kaiser approached staffing issues. Stating that it was Kaiser's goal to be both the "healthcare provider of choice" and the "healthcare employer of choice," she spoke of Kaiser's partnership with labor (70% of the Kaiser workforce is union), and the joint labor/management effort to provide a stable team of caregivers. These efforts include a safety program (for both patients and employees), and a compensation and benefits package which includes retiree medical care after 15 years of service and health coverage for dependents AND the parents and inlaws of the employee (!!!) ).

Citing the aging workforce and the need to recruit and train new employees in various specialties, Colleen described the career ladder developed by Kaiser and SEIU Local 250 that allows employees to learn new skills while continuing to receive full pay.

In regard to staffing levels, Kaiser was among the first to adopt state-approved staffing ratios and has a joint committee of labor and management in place to deal with staffing issues.


Pam Johnson, a Sr. Program Assistant at Kaiser Roseville: "I feel very blessed to work at Kaiser. I was recently in Chico, trying to get Enloe Hospital organized, and talking to people there, I realized how much we have. Turnover is low--- people don't leave, and I think this makes patients feel secure, knowing that staff is satisfied and knowledgeable." Pam described the labor/management committees at Kaiser, which give staff a say in how patients are cared for. Even at Kaiser, however, there are some areas, such as Pharmacy, with insufficient staff. "We just don't have the people to put in those positions," she said.

In closing, she added her support to the solutions proposed by fellow SEIU hospital workers to improve patient care through better efforts to recruit and train staff.

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