County Pulse

County Pulse: Seniors fight for services at Kaiser’s Manteca hospital

kcarlson@modbee.comFebruary 14, 2014 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textKen Carlson
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: County government, health and medicine, air quality, the environment and public pension systems
    Bio: Ken Carlson has worked 13 years for The Bee, covering local government agencies in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. His in-depth reporting has focused on access to health care and public employee pensions.
    Recent stories written by Ken
    E-mail: kcarlson@modbee.com

A group of seniors and their allies in the California Nurses Association are battling to keep the remaining services at the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Manteca. They also want Kaiser to restore what was lost a year ago.

The health advocates said the Manteca hospital is no longer an option for people needing specialty care for heart disease, gastrointestinal illness or orthopedic problems. The entire third floor of the hospital was closed to patients last year in order to consolidate services at Kaiser’s north Modesto medical center.

The senior advocates continued with their protests at a candlelight vigil Friday evening outside the West Yosemite Avenue hospital. The Keep Manteca Safe Committee said delays in patient care are resulting from the cutbacks. Seniors with Kaiser health plans who purchased homes in Manteca’s retirement villages face a 17-mile trip to see doctors or visit loved ones at the Kaiser Modesto Medical Center on Dale Road.

“It is a huge hardship to travel highways 120 and 99 to get their health care services in Modesto,” said Amy Glass, an intensive care nurse for Kaiser.

The nurses union pointed out that hospital and health care service consolidation nationwide has been accelerated because of the Affordable Care Act. As millions of people become insured through the federal health law, large health care entities see a need to deliver care more efficiently. It appears that Manteca is a flashpoint for consumers reacting to the trend.

“What makes it unique to Manteca is we have a huge population of seniors,” Glass said. “These people paid for years into Kaiser, and now that they need health care services, they are not available.”

Corwin Harper, senior vice president and Central Valley manager for Kaiser, said the nurses union is misrepresenting the facts. In a statement, Harper said the vigil was “just another chapter in an organized and irresponsible campaign to mislead and alarm Kaiser Permanente members in Manteca.”

Harper said most of the services alleged to have ceased never were offered at the Manteca hospital. Kaiser officials talked with residents about their health care concerns during a community meeting in Manteca in December.

According to Harper, community members expressed the need for transportation options between Manteca and Modesto. Kaiser started a daily shuttle that runs between the two hospital sites from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The free shuttle is for Kaiser members and their families for physician appointments, hospital visits and other health services.

“We want to reassure our Manteca members that we have no intention of shutting the doors on our presence in Manteca,” Harper said.

The Keep Manteca Safe Committee is calling on Kaiser to again open the third floor in Manteca for inpatient care and to lift admission restrictions on patients needing longer term care in a second floor subacute unit. The nurses association claims that Kaiser has added 25,000 new members in Northern California since June and is expected to keep growing membership through the Affordable Care Act.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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