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    Wednesday
    Jan152014

    NUHW Endorses Dan Siegel for Oakland Mayor

    Longtime community activist and labor attorney will fight for working people 

    EMERYVILLE — The National Union of Healthcare Workers is proud to announce its endorsement of Dan Siegel for mayor of Oakland.  

    As a civil rights attorney specializing in employment and labor law, Siegel represents NUHW and its 10,000 members, making a valuable contribution to the union’s mission to improve patient care, working conditions, and wages and benefits for workers throughout the healthcare industry.

    “Dan understands the challenges faced by working people in today’s world,” says NUHW President Sal Rosselli. “He is a selfless advocate for the 99 percent, having dedicated his life to progressive causes. We support his effort to continue that struggle at Oakland City Hall.”

    Siegel’s administration will protect city workers from attacks on their wages and benefits and will work with the community to build an economy that provides good paying jobs, to address neighborhood safety issues, and to improve our schools so that they equitably serve all of Oakland’s students.

    An East Oakland resident since 1975, Siegel has successfully represented victims of employment discrimination and government misconduct for forty years. He graduated from UC Berkeley law school and was president of the UC student government and a leader of the anti-Vietnam War movement. He served as president of both the Oakland School Board and the Oakland Housing Authority Commission and was an author of Oakland’s Community Policing Ordinance and the Oakland Unified School’s District’s nationally acclaimed nutrition policy.

    Siegel announced his candidacy January 9 at 14th and Broadway, which served as the entrance to the Occupy Oakland encampment three years ago. Siegel was an adviser to Mayor Jean Quan at the time of the Occupy movement but resigned in protest when Quan ordered a police crackdown on the encampment in the fall of 2011.

    No longer Mayor Quan’s legal advisor,” Siegel tweeted on the morning of his resignation. “Resigned at 2 am. Support Occupy Oakland, not the 1% and its government facilitators.”

    NUHW represents nearly 10,000 healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities in California. It has a proven track record of democratic unionism and winning strong patient-care and workplace standards. In 2013, NUHW affiliated with the California Nurses Association, which represents 85,000 Registered Nurses in California.

     

    Thursday
    Dec052013

    Workers at Kindred Hospital Westminster Vote to Join NUHW

    180 caregivers vote by 80% margin to join union in NLRB election

    EMERYVILLE — More than 180 healthcare workers at Kindred Hospital Westminster in Westminster, California (Orange County) have become the newest members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Late last night, the National Labor Relations Board concluded its vote count and announced the final tally:  129 votes for NUHW and 32 votes for “No Union.”

    The healthcare workers include Licensed Vocational Nurses, Certified Nursing Assistants, and Respiratory Therapists. They care for patients with complex medical conditions that require extended hospitals stays at the 109-bed acute-care hospital.

    Caregivers’ main objective in joining NUHW is to address longstanding problems of inadequate staffing levels that undermine their patients’ care. Last year, the hospital recorded a 17% profit margin, more than three times the statewide average for California’s hospitals, according to government records.

    Rodney Nelson, a Respiratory Care Practitioner who has worked at the hospital for five years, said: “We didn’t get into healthcare to get rich. We do our jobs to impact lives for the better, to help patients and families through difficult times. None of us entered this field to do a mediocre job, but unfortunately, with the time and resources we’re given, that’s often the only job we can do. With Kindred, profits usually come before patients and that’s unacceptable. As NUHW members, we hope to fulfill our mission as healthcare workers.”

    Caregivers won yesterday’s election despite an aggressive anti-union campaign waged by Kindred and The Alignment Group, an out-of-state consulting firm hired by Kindred to conduct its anti-union campaign. Each of the firm’s consultants charges $200-$300 per hour for their services.

    Kindred Hospital Westminster is owned by Kindred Healthcare, a Fortune 500 corporation headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. With 62,000 employees in 46 states, the company is traded on the New York Stock Exchange and has revenues of more than $6 billion per year.  Kindred’s CEO, Paul Diaz, earned $6.4 million in 2011. NUHW also represents the employees at the 99-bed Kindred Hospital San Francisco Bay Area in San Leandro, California.

    NUHW represents nearly 10,000 healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities in California and Michigan. It has a proven track record of democratic unionism and winning strong patient-care and workplace standards. In 2013, NUHW affiliated with the California Nurses Association, which represents 85,000 Registered Nurses in California.

     

    Thursday
    Sep192013

    Clinicians File Complaint Against Former Government Official for Assisting Kaiser Permanente During Mental Health Investigation

    NUHW’s Complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission Questions Whether Marcy Gallagher Violated the Law by ‘Switching Sides’ During Investigation of Kaiser’s Mental Health Care

    Sacramento – Today, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) asking for a complete investigation of whether a former official in California’s Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) who was charged with investigating Kaiser Permanente’s substandard mental health care illegally “switched sides” by assisting Kaiser during the investigation.
     
    The official, Marcy Gallagher, was a top DMHC attorney and was responsible for leading the agency’s investigation into Kaiser’s patient-care violations, including the HMO’s illegal delays in caring for patients with depression, autism and other conditions. After leading the agency’s investigation for eight months, Gallagher resigned her government position and was hired by Kaiser, where she works for the Kaiser division that’s responsible for defending Kaiser against the agency’s investigation. At Kaiser, Ms. Gallagher reportedly trained Kaiser officials on how to answer questions posed by DMHC’s investigators. Next month, the agency plans to conduct site visits at Kaiser hospitals and clinics as part of its ongoing investigation.
     
    In short, Ms. Gallagher went from directing the DMHC’s investigation against Kaiser to helping Kaiser fend off the very investigation that she spearheaded.
     
    Additionally, documents indicate that a number of Kaiser’s top officials were aware of Ms. Gallagher’s highly questionable conduct, including Dr. Ben Chu, the president of Kaiser’s Southern California Region and a top national official at Kaiser.
     
    NUHW’s complaint requests that the FPPC  immediately investigate whether Ms. Gallagher violated various provisions of California’s Political Reform Act including the “Permanent Ban on Switching Sides by State Officials” and the “Ban on Influencing Prospective Employment.” These provisions, detailed in NUHW’s four-page complaint, are intended to prevent private interests from corrupting the government by buying “insider” assistance from state officials. Kaiser is California’s largest HMO and has reported $10.2 billion in profits since 2009.
     
    Currently, Kaiser is under heavy regulatory scrutiny for its mental health violations. After the first phase of the state’s investigation, Kaiser was fined $4 million for violating multiple provisions of state law, including the California Mental Health Parity Act and California’s Timely Access Regulations. The investigation was prompted by a complaint filed by NUHW, whose members include 2,500 psychologists, therapists and other licensed mental health clinicians who care for Kaiser patients at dozens of hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms across California.

    Monday
    Sep092013

    NUHW Sues California’s “Obamacare” Exchange to Protect Patients from Kaiser Permanente’s Substandard Care

    Sacramento—Today, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) and five other plaintiffs filed suit in the Superior Court of Sacramento, California to block Kaiser Permanente from participating in California’s Health Benefit Exchange due to its substandard care that violates the Exchange’s rules.

    In June, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) fined Kaiser $4 million for committing multiple and “serious” violations related to its mental health services, including failing to give patients access to care and violating California’s Mental Health Parity Act. The DMHC’s fine is the second largest in the agency’s history and stems from a complaint filed in November of 2011 by NUHW’s mental health clinicians on behalf of their patients.

    According to state and federal law, the Health Benefits Exchange can only contract with HMOs that “are in good standing with their respective regulatory agencies,” which is further defined as “the absence of any material statutory or regulatory violations, including penalties, during the prior year…”  

    Nonetheless, last month California’s Health Benefits Exchange ignored state and federal law by signing a contract with Kaiser even after the Exchange had been fully apprised of Kaiser’s ineligibility to participate in California’s new health insurance market. Today’s lawsuit simply asks a judge to compel the Exchange to follow state and federal law, including the “good standing” requirement.

    “Before Kaiser is allowed to enroll thousands more patients through the Exchange, it should first demonstrate that it can take care of the patients who already rely on Kaiser for their health care,” said Dr. Horace Beach, a psychologist who has worked at Kaiser Vallejo for many years.  “It’s unfortunate that it takes going to court to protect California consumers. But the Exchange shouldn’t allow a plan like Kaiser to participate until it can demonstrate that it has corrected all of the serious violations documented by the DMHC and has paid the $4 million fine to the state.”

    The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents 10,000 frontline caregivers, including nearly 5,000 healthcare professionals employed by Kaiser Permanente, including registered nurses, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, opticians, and other professionals.  In October 2011, NUHW released a 34-page paper entitled “Care Delayed, Care Denied:  Kaiser Permanente’s Failure to Provide Timely and Appropriate Mental Health Services,” which first made public Kaiser’s substandard mental health care.

    Wednesday
    Jul312013

    Kaiser Permanente Ineligible to Participate in Obamacare Insurance Exchange in California

    Kaiser should be disqualified from exchange due to violations of state statutory requirements for mental health patients and other plan participants 

    Kaiser disciplined a therapist for recommending timely follow-up for patient in clinical notes

    Emeryville, California — Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., the biggest HMO in California and one of the biggest in the country, should not be allowed to participate in the new insurance exchange being set up under Obamacare in California next year since it fails to meet the required standard of “good standing” spelled out in the exchange’s “Qualified Health Plan Contract.”

    Section 3.02 of Covered California’s contract requires that during the year preceding entrance into the agreement, contracting health plans be in “good standing,” which it defines as “the absence of any material statutory or regulatory violations, including penalties” by the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC).

    Last month, Kaiser was assessed a penalty of $4 million by DMHC for what the regulatory agency calls “serious deficiencies in providing access to mental health services” that violate Health and Safety Code section 1374.72; California Code of Regulations, Title 28, Section 1300.67.2.2(c) and (d); and California Code of Regulations, Title 28, Section 1300.67(f)(8).

    In addition, in June, the DMHC cited Kaiser for five more violations of state law, including failure to ensure that its utilization management practices are “consistent with sound clinical principles and professionally recognized standards of practice,” failure to properly notice policyholders of denials of service, and failure to ensure compliance with state regulations governing coverage of reconstructive surgery. In one case cited by the DMHC, Kaiser unlawfully told the parents of a patient that removal of a cyst on their son’s face was “cosmetic” and not covered by their insurance policy.

    The unambiguous language in the insurance exchange’s contract clearly disqualifies Kaiser.

    Yesterday, the National Union of Healthcare Workers sent a letter to the directors of Covered California, alerting them to Kaiser’s ineligibility under the exchange rules.

    DMHC’s $4 million fine against Kaiser — the second largest in the agency’s history — was the result of a state investigation sparked by a report compiled by NUHW-represented mental health clinicians at Kaiser that identified numerous violations of California laws requiring “timely access” to care by patients.

    Instead of seeking guidance from its mental health care providers who have long advocated for increased staffing to rectify Kaiser’s deficiencies in care, Kaiser has begun to intimidate and punish clinicians for advocating for patients and for simply doing their jobs.

    Last week, after conducting a telephone triage assessment on a patient, Dr. Alex Wang, a psychologist at Kaiser Fremont, wrote in his notes, “pt should be seen sooner” than his scheduled appointment for three weeks later. Kaiser management disciplined Dr. Wang’s for writing this clinical note, calling it a “political statement.”

    Read NUHW’s letter to DMHC on Kaiser’s retailiation against Dr. Wang: http://nuhw.squarespace.com/storage/docs/NUHW-ComplaintToDMHC_OnKaiser7-31-13.pdf

    Read NUHW’s letter to California Attorney General Kamala Harris requesting an investigation of Kaiser’s apparent violation of whistleblower protection laws: http://nuhw.squarespace.com/storage/docs/NUHW-ComplaintToAttyGeneralOnKaiserRetaliation7-31-13.pdf

    “Kaiser doesn’t take mental health care for its patients seriously,” says Dr. Andris Skuja, PhD, a psychologist at Kaiser. “Our patients have serious needs. The last thing they need is for their care to be illegally curtailed by an HMO that’s already making billions in profits, just so Kaiser can make a few more pennies on the dollar at patients’ expense.” 

    Tuesday
    Jul302013

    BREAKING: Kaiser Permanente Ineligible to Participate in Obamacare Insurance Exchange in California Next Year 

    Kaiser disqualified from exchange due to violations of state statutory requirements for mental health patients and other plan participants

    What: Press conference on Kaiser’s failure to qualify for participation in insurance exchange

    Where: Kaiser Oakland, 3801 Howe St, Oakland, Emergency Services entrance

    When: Wednesday, July 31 at 12 noon

    Visuals: Healthcare workers at podium in front of hospital

    Oakland — Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., the biggest HMO in California and one of the biggest in the country, cannot participate in the new insurance exchange being set up under Obamacare in California next year since it fails to meet the required standard of “good standing” spelled out in the exchange’s “Qualified Health Plan Contract.”

    At tomorrow’s press conference, NUHW members who work at Kaiser will explain the exchange’s rules and Kaiser’s disqualification from participation in it due to numerous citations by the Department of Managed Health Care for statutory violations involving delays and denials of care to patients.

    NUHW members have long urged Kaiser to adhere to the law and to its ethical responsibilities by hiring the staff necessary to provide patients with the care they deserve. Rather than listen to their employees, however, Kaiser managers have begun to punish clinicians for exercising responsible medical judgment. Earlier this month, Kaiser management disciplined Dr. Alex Wang, a psychologist at Kaiser Fremont, for writing in his clinical notes, “pt should be seen sooner,” calling it a “political statement.”

    Monday
    Jul012013

    Workers to Picket Children's Hospital Oakland for Improved Patient Care

    MEDIA ADVISORY FOR TUESDAY, JULY 2, 2013

    Workers to Picket Children’s Hospital Oakland for Improved Patient Care

     

    What: Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) at Children’s Hospital Oakland will be conducting an informational picket (not a strike or work stoppage) for a fair contract that protects long-held employee rights and health insurance protections and to protest unsafe staffing at the hospital. NUHW members will be joined in solidarity on the picket line by registered nurses in the California Nurses Association (CNA) and employees represented by the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU).

    When: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 from 11am to 1:30pm (peak attendance from 12-12:30)

    Where: Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland, 747 52nd St Oakland CA 94609

    Visuals: Caregivers in scrubs with picket signs, marching and chanting in front of hospital

    Contact: Before July 2 — Leighton Woodhouse: (213) 948-3545

                 On July 2 — Brian McNamara: (213) 280-0925

    Tuesday
    Jun252013

    Government Imposes $4 Million Fine on Kaiser Permanente for Limiting Patients’ Access to Mental Health Care

    $4 Million Fine is Second Largest in DMHC’s History; Action Results from Caregivers’ Complaint to the Agency 

    PRESS CONFERENCES TOMORROW, JUNE 26, IN LOS ANGELES AND OAKLAND:

    When: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 12 noon

    Where: Kaiser Oakland, corner of Howe St. and MacArthur Blvd., Oakland [map]
                Kaiser Los Angeles, in front of 4867 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles [map]

    Who: NUHW-represented Kaiser mental health clinicians to speak to media about Kaiser’s mental health care deficiencies and how NUHW is holding Kaiser accountable to patients.

    SACRAMENTO ― Today, the California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) announced a $4 million fine against California’s largest HMO for limiting patients’ access to mental health care. 

    The fine affirms the findings of an exhaustive complaint filed by Kaiser Permanente’s frontline mental health clinicians, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). In November of 2011, NUHW filed a 34-page complaint with the DMHC and has cooperated with the agency’s ensuing 19-month investigation.

    In addition to the $4 million fine, the DMHC also filed a “Cease and Desist Order” against Kaiser that emphasizes the risks posed to patients: 

    “The Department finds that the Plan’s deficiencies are serious and may put some of its members at risk of harm. Therefore, as set forth in this Order, the Department of Managed Health Care hereby directs the Plan to Cease and Desist from any further violation of the foregoing statutes and regulations in order to protect the interests of enrollees.” (p. 7, Cease and Desist Order)

    In a press release, DMHC Director Brent Barnhart reiterated the seriousness of the DMHC’s findings: 

    “The Department’s actions are a result of both the seriousness of the deficiencies and the failure of Kaiser to promptly correct them. The Department is taking this action to ensure that Kaiser promptly corrects these deficiencies and provides its patients with the mental health care promised to them by their health plan.”

    “This action confirms what every Kaiser clinician knows,” said Dr. Andris Skuja, PhD, a psychologist. “Kaiser doesn’t take mental health care for its patients seriously. Our patients have serious needs. The last thing they need is for their care to be illegally curtailed by an HMO that’s already making billions in profits, just so Kaiser can make a few more pennies on the dollar at patients’ expense.”

    The DMHC fined Kaiser due to its violations of four areas of state law. 

    • Kaiser committed “systemic access deficiencies” by failing to provide its members with timely access to mental health services. Under California’s “timely access” regulations, HMOs are required to provide appointments to patients within 14 days of their request for mental health services. Instead, large numbers of Kaiser’s patients were required to endure lengthy waits. For example, the DMHC identified three Kaiser medical centers in Southern California where “less than half” of the patients were seen within the required timeframe. (p. 13-14) At some facilities, these failures persisted for ten consecutive months and were so grave that two-thirds of Kaiser’s patients were not seen in a timely fashion during certain months. (p. 14) In Northern California, one Kaiser facility treated fewer than 40% of its patients within the required timeframe. This failure continued for five consecutive months ending January 2012. (p. 14)

    • Kaiser’s internal record-keeping system contained numerous problems — including a parallel set of “paper” appointment records that differed from the HMO’s electronic records — that hid patients’ lengthy wait times from government inspectors. 

    • Kaiser failed to adequately monitor and correct its violations of state law. Records show that Kaiser was aware of its violations, but failed to take action to correct the problems. 

    • Kaiser provided “inaccurate educational materials” to its members that had the effect of dissuading them from pursuing medically necessary care and violated state and federal mental health parity laws. 

    The impact of Kaiser’s violations is massive. With more than 7 million enrollees, Kaiser is the largest HMO in California and is the largest private-sector provider of mental health services in the state. It delivers care to patients with conditions that range from depression, anxiety disorders and autism to bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and suicidal ideation.

    Kaiser’s failure to meet state standards results in significant and unnecessary suffering by patients, many of whom are coping with serious trauma, are in severe emotional distress and are in acute need of timely care.

    According to the DMHC’s report:

    “If the Plan [Kaiser] does not effectively monitor wait times and ensure that enrollees are not waiting excessively for an initial appointment or between appointments with their provider, significant numbers of enrollees with untreated or prolonged health conditions may suffer harm.” (p. 10)

    Read more about Kaiser’s mental health care deficiencies: http://www.nuhw.org/caredenied

    Thursday
    Jun132013

    Federal Judge: NUHW Lawsuit Against Kaiser For “Sweetheart” Deal with SEIU May Proceed

    SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) against Kaiser Permanente for gross misconduct in two separate union elections may proceed.

    The suit alleges that Kaiser violated the law in two elections between NUHW and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in 2010 and 2013 when it paid Kaiser employees who supported SEIU as “lost timers” to campaign against NUHW.

    According to Judge William Alsup, the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) clearly seeks to avoid “a sweetheart cozy arrangement between the incumbent union boss and the company, for such arrangements persist at the expense of the workers.” The alleged agreement between Kaiser and SEIU, in which “Kaiser knowingly released lost-timers to SEIU-UHW to campaign against NUHW and paid them benefits and other things of value to campaign against NUHW,” constituted just such a “sweetheart cozy arrangement.”

    Yes, the employer likes doing business with such unions,” Alsup continued. “But indirect contributions as alleged here would violate the purpose of Section 302 ‘to prevent bribery, extortion, shakedowns, and other corrupt practices.’”

    Judge Alsup refused to deem the lawsuit moot in light of the certification of the 2013 election between NUHW and SEIU because “(f)uture elections between SEIU-UHW and NUHW are likely and Kaiser’s allegedly unlawful conduct is capable of repetition.”

    It is reasonable to expect that this conduct — the exponential increase of lost-timers to campaign running up to a representation election — will be repeated,” Alsup wrote.

    Judge Alsup, whose past rulings have not favored NUHW, appeared to find a great deal of merit in NUHW’s case against Kaiser. Kaiser’s arrangement with SEIU as described in NUHW’s suit, Alsup explained, is “tantamount to making cash campaign contributions to SEIU-UHW to assist SEIU-UHW in fending off the upstart rival NUHW.”

    No court has ever held that employers can pay employees under a collective bargaining agreement to campaign under the control of the incumbent union against a rival union,” Alsup wrote.

    “Judge Alsup couldn’t be more correct in his characterization of the partnership between SEIU and Kaiser as a ‘sweetheart cozy arrangement,’” said Sal Rosselli, President of NUHW. “As Judge Alsup has noted, it’s plainly illegal for Kaiser to make the equivalent of cash contributions to its favored union, SEIU. In the labor movement, SEIU is what we call an illegal ‘company union.’ We’re glad to see Kaiser finally being held accountable to the law.”

    Wednesday
    Jun052013

    Kaiser Optical Workers Vote to Remain in NUHW-CNA, Reject SEIU

    OAKLAND — Today, votes were counted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for Northern California optical workers at Kaiser Permanente in an election between the Service Employees International (SEIU) and the National Union of Healthcare Workers - California Nurses Association (NUHW). By an overwhelming vote of 214 for NUHW to 103 for SEIU with 22 challenges and 3 voting for “Neither,” Kaiser optical workers voted to remain in NUHW.

    In fact, today’s election results reflect an even clearer repudiation of SEIU than when Kaiser optical workers first voted to switch from SEIU to NUHW in 2010. Between the 2010 election and today’s, support for NUHW as reflected in the respective ballot counts grew by 39%, while SEIU’s support dropped by 28 percent.

    SEIU filed a petition with the NLRB for the decertification election three months ago, during an election contest between NUHW and SEIU for representation of 45,000 Kaiser employees statewide. SEIU filed with only a handful of signatures as a publicity stunt for its campaign.

    Since joining NUHW, Kaiser optical workers have refused to agree to cuts to benefits and job protections that SEIU officials have already accepted on behalf of their members at Kaiser. Today’s vote was a clear affirmation that optical workers at Kaiser continue to support standing up to Kaiser’s cuts and reject SEIU’s culture of conciliation and collusion with management.

    “We’ve now sent the message loud and clear to SEIU, not once, but twice: we’re not interested in ‘partnering’ with management by throwing workers under the bus,” said Gloria Villaseñor, an optical worker at Kaiser Union City. “We’re sticking with NUHW because we want a union that will fight for its members.”