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Kaiser employees upset over layoffs

August 12, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Kaiser Permanente says it is eliminating jobs in California as the Oakland health care giant faces a drop in subscribers and shrinking reimbursements from Medicare. Ardelphia Bowen and a crew of Kaiser Permanente employees are going from one medical facility to another to address fears and examine options as Kaiser announces layoffs.

"We have members, in lower seniority, that are afraid right now. There are not a lot of jobs out there. They feel that they have been loyal to Kaiser," said Bowen.

Kaiser says it will eliminate 650 positions during the next several months. The reductions will be spread across all of its centers throughout Southern California through a voluntary program at first. No doctors or nurses. It's positions of support staff that are on the line.

"We have taken many steps to minimize the impact on our employees including: generous severance packages, extended health care benefits and assistance in finding new employment," said Kaiser spokesman Jim Anderson.

"Kaiser has identified jobs they want to decrease," said Bowen.

The economy is to blame for the shift. As people lose their jobs, they will also lose their health coverage.

Kaiser memberships have declined. Patient volume is down.

Kaiser offers regrets saying:

"We are trying to find places inside Kaiser for as many of those employees as possible. Some may not qualify for other positions. Some may not be interested."

Yet union members say the cuts are not necessary. Kaiser reports a 75 percent jump in second-quarter profits to $620 million. Furthermore, workers say there are better ways to save money.

Meantime meetings and discussions continue, the union will decide in the next couple of days whether they will set up informational picketing.

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