Ailing Kaiser to cut 90 jobs
It cites rising medical expenses for the layoffs, which will affect about 30 nurses
STORY SUMMARY »
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii, the state's largest health maintenance organization, plans to cut 90 jobs by mid-November in an effort to bridge the growing gap between its income and its expenses.
Kaiser said yesterday the layoffs will affect 2 percent of its work force, which is about 4,500 employees statewide.
Nearly a third of those losing jobs are nurses, who will be laid off amid a serious nursing shortage. The remaining are administrative and clerical staff. No doctors will be affected by the cuts.
Kaiser said it also has more than 100 open clinical, administrative and nursing positions, some of which could be filled by workers whose jobs are being cut.
The Hawaii Nurses Association plans to fight to keep its nurses employed with Kaiser. Unite Here! Local 5, representing a dozen office workers being laid off, says it will work with Kaiser to help it emerge a stronger health care provider.
The company said this marks the last of its cost-cutting measures involving personnel, which began more than a year ago and caused 54 layoffs as well as a management overhaul.
FULL STORY »
Kaiser Permanente Hawaii said yesterday it plans to cut 90 employees in what it says will be its last round of layoffs intended to stem the financial bleeding caused by soaring medical costs.
Nearly a third of those affected are nurses, who will be laid off during a serious nursing shortage that some say could threaten patient care in Hawaii. The remaining are administrative and clerical staff.
"We're talking about nurses who have 10 to 12 years with Kaiser. It's just heartbreaking that they've got to start all over somewhere else -- it's ridiculous," said Hector Ramos, Hawaii Nurses Association interim executive director. "I do not understand when you're talking about improving patient care, you (lay off) nurses. Here we are in a nursing shortage, and Kaiser's getting rid of nurses."
HNA plans to aggressively fight to keep the nurses employed with Kaiser, Ramos said, adding that the company has an obligation by law to negotiate with the union the effects of the proposed cuts.
Kaiser, the state's largest health maintenance organization, said the layoffs will affect about 2 percent of its work force, which totals 4,500 employees statewide.
Kaiser said it also has more than 100 open clinical, administrative and nursing positions, which it hopes will be filled by some of the affected workers.
Many of the layoffs will be completed by mid-November, the company said, with exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
Ramos questioned why Kaiser chose to lay off nurses instead of transferring them to some of the open positions.
The company said it will provide the workers with case managers and outplacement counseling services to help them find jobs in Hawaii or with Kaiser on the mainland, and offer severance and medical benefits for up to six months depending on years of service. No doctors will be affected by the cuts.
Roughly 16 of the 28 affected nurses are nurse practitioners -- one of the top tiers in nursing -- who can prescribe medication, assess patients and diagnose illnesses.
"My heart goes out to this group because these are women who went the extra mile in their profession," Ramos said.
Kaiser said it is strengthening its preventive health programs and hopes that some of the affected nurse practitioners will apply for those jobs. The company also plans to hire more primary care physicians to work in neighborhood clinics that will be expanding hours.
"My hope is that we really are not going to separate with 90 people -- my hope is that (with) the 100 positions we still have open, that many of them choose to stay," said Janet Liang, Kaiser president. "We're very confident that we've put together a plan that will help us grow our membership next year and create a much more stable workplace for our employees. There's no next plan around any kind of reduction -- we really are focused on getting this behind us."
Kaiser has more than 800 nurses, and those affected by the cuts work at some of the urgent care facilities that will be reducing clinic hours, Liang said.
"They're continuing to look at how to improve operational efficiencies," said Jan Kagehiro, Kaiser spokeswoman. "We are in challenging times."
Cade Watanabe, a spokesman for Unite Here! Local 5, said about a dozen of its members -- primarily office workers -- will be affected by the cuts.
However, the union is sympathetic to Kaiser's plight.
"We have known for a while that Kaiser has been going through some very difficult times," Watanabe said. "In spite of this recent announcement, we want to be able to continue our working relationship with Kaiser so that Kaiser can emerge a stronger and better provider of good-quality health care to their members, which is in our interest as well."
Kaiser, which has 219,000 members, recorded a net loss of $3.2 million in the second quarter due to rising medical expenses outside the Kaiser network and lower-than-expected membership. The HMO began cutting costs more than a year ago, which led to 54 layoffs and a management overhaul. Kaiser's restructuring measures have included property consolidation, reviewing all contracts and evaluating all positions.
Kaiser is spending $150 million on a tower expansion at its Moanalua Medical Center on Oahu. The HMO said its current financial difficulties are not expected to affect that project.