BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – It’s a race against time for Kern Medical management as a three-day employee strike inches closer.
The hospital now being accused by members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 521 of violating California open meeting laws and about being misleading on the use of an outpatient facility.
“Healthcare workers like myself know very well that the Hospital Authority must do more to comply with the law and provide quality care to our patients, ” Eva Dominguez, MRI Technologist and SEIU Local 521 Member, said. “We’ve provided our union with the facts that we believe point to Kern Medical’s efforts to operate above public oversight.”
A lawsuit, filed on Monday in California Superior Court, alleges Kern Medical’s management violated the Brown Act and California Public Records Act. Laws that require public agencies like the Kern County Hospital Authority (KCHA) which oversees Kern Medical, to disclose how they spend tax money and deliberate in public.
SEIU Local 521 alleges in the lawsuit that Kern Medical fails to do just that.
“The funds are coming from a public entity,” George, Kern Medical Clinical Nurse Leader and SEIU Local 521 Member, said. “The lawsuit derives from there not being enough transparency.”
The lawsuit further alleges that the Hospital Authority created a stand-alone corporation, Kern Medical Surgery Center LLC, under the guise of providing ambulatory surgeries, but instead is also providing boutique spa services and cosmetic surgeries to the residents of West Bakersfield at the expense of investments that could improve the quality of care provided to indigent residents.
“In Kern Medical’s Surgical Department, we don’t always have the equipment we rely on to do our jobs,” Robin Heber, Operating Room Surgical Technologist at Kern Medical and SEIU 521 Member, said. “There have been multiple instances when our equipment isn’t available because it was sent to the Kern Medical Surgery, LLC facilities.
Kern Medical told 17 News that it does not comment on pending litigation. Meantime, a spokesperson for the county re-directed us to the union for comment on the matter.
On the matter of the strike, Employees and union leaders say one last offer was made by hospital management today but it seems employees will be picketing in exactly one week. No further word has been given if the hospital and the union will head back to the bargaining table.
“We are 24.7% below wage parity for health care workers in our area and that contributes to our high turnover rate,” Pfister said. “We don’t want to strike, but we are at a point in order to provide high quality health care, we have to.”
To read the full lawsuit, click here.