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Record healthcare worker strike in the US: Over 75,000 workers strike at hundreds of medical facilities.


Healthcare workers in the US went on strike. Medical professionals plan to strike for three days until early Saturday morning. A message on the Kaiser website states that some non-urgent appointments will be rescheduled, and patients will be contacted later.

A coalition of labor unions representing 75,000 lab workers, surgical technicians, certified nurses, and other healthcare employees is protesting against the "dangerously low staffing levels" at Kaiser facilities. The strike involves professional nurses, emergency room technicians, radiology technicians, radiologic technologists, pulmonologists, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists.

This is considered the largest healthcare worker strike in US history.

The striking workers, primarily in California, Colorado, Washington, Virginia, and Oregon, are represented by a coalition of labor unions that make up 40% of Kaiser Permanente's total workforce. The majority of strikers are in West Coast states. The strike began at 6 am local time and will last until early Saturday morning.

The healthcare workers are demanding salary increases, expanded benefits, and addressing the issue of staff shortages.

"We continue to see healthcare workers experiencing burnout, working at the brink of their capabilities, and leaving the profession," said K. Lucas to local media. "We have employees who are injured at work because they're trying to do too much, see too many people, and work too quickly. This situation is not sustainable," she emphasized.

Negotiations between the coalition and Kaiser Permanente ended without resolution, but "a series of preliminary agreements" were reached, according to Kaiser Permanente's statement. Kaiser Permanente stated that they will work with union leaders "to resume negotiations as soon as possible." In August, Kaiser workers demanded setting a minimum hourly wage of $25 and increasing it by 7% annually for the first two years, followed by a 6.25% increase for the next two years, as reported by AP. However, Kaiser proposed a minimum hourly wage ranging from $21 to $23 by 2024, depending on the location.

Hospitals and emergency rooms will remain open during the strike. However, pharmacies, laboratories, and some outpatient clinics, including obstetrics-gynecology practices and radiology clinics, will be closed until Friday.

Kaiser Permanente is the largest nonprofit private healthcare organization in the United States, serving nearly 13 million patients and managing 39 hospitals and over 600 medical facilities in eight states and the District of Columbia. The healthcare system employs over 305,000 people.

Staffing shortages and disruptions Despite only 75,000 out of over 305,000 Kaiser employees participating in the strike, essential workers in the healthcare system, such as nurses, emergency room doctors, respiratory therapists, ultrasound sonographers, radiologists, and radiologic technologists, are involved in the protest, which is crucial for patient care.

In Georgia, Hawaii, and Washington, it is expected that patients will not be affected by the strike, according to a Kaiser representative cited by CNN. In these three states, operations will continue as usual. In Virginia and the District of Columbia, pharmacists and optometrists will strike. In Colorado, California, and Oregon, the strike's impact on patients could be "more significant," according to a Kaiser representative.

However, John August, former executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Labor Coalition, stated that working with fewer employees will be challenging in the healthcare system. "Managers will still be there. Doctors will still be there. It's easy to say from the sidelines that this won't be so destructive... The reality is that it's very detrimental," he said.

During a small strike last year that involved workers at a Kaiser psychiatric clinic, some patients noted that their appointments were canceled.

Staff shortages are a key issue raised by protesters. Henry Perez, a secretary of the Kaiser Permanente intensive care unit in Modesto, California, told The Guardian that there are days when he has to do the work of two, three, or four other department assistants. Staff shortages also harm patients as they have to wait longer for care.

Kaiser stated that it is actively recruiting staff to fill more positions, according to Axios. The company has reached an agreement with strikers to hire 10,000 new employees by the end of this month. The company aims to achieve this goal.