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Kaiser Permanente Strikes: study reveals which states affected most by low staffing levels

The workers victory in the healthcare sector’s largest ever strike has forced increased investment in the workforce after historically low staffing levels.

Update:
The workers victory in the healthcare sector’s largest ever strike has forced increased investment in the workforce after historically low staffing levels.
MIKE BLAKEREUTERS

The US healthcare sector is well known for being one of the most expensive in the world, owing to the lack of publicly available support without insurance.

But the system is not just broken for patients, but also for the workers aiming to support them. That’s why October saw the largest healthcare strike the country has ever seen with more than 75,000 workers of the Kaiser Permanente healthcare group walking out.

An agreement reached after three-days of industrial action addressed staff’s key concerns, not least of which was staffing levels. Unions wanted at least 10,000 new workers by 2024 after they identified more than 1 in 10 union jobs being vacant. This has put stress on workers to deliver more rapid care, compromising patient wellbeing.

“Kaiser has been trumpeting that its met the goal of hiring 10,000 people this year but they’re not saying that they’ve also lost 4,000 in that same time,” Caroline Lucas, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions said. “We’ve had one-off solutions like this but we need a fully-rounded solution.”

The deal to resolve the strike will see worker pay rise by 21% by 2026, increased pay for overtime and more opportunities for staff hiring without using agencies. Staff will hope this alleviates the problems facing workers and patients.

The states which are the worst affected by healthcare job vacancies

Tebra analysed thousands of healthcare job postings on Indeed to learn more about the state of working in the US healthcare sector. They found in their study that:

  • 61% of postings offer salaries less than $60,000, while just 20% of job postings offer salaries greater than $75,000.
  • New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts have the most healthcare job postings per capita.
  • Nevada, Utah and Mississippi have the fewest healthcare job postings per capita.

“Not only does the pay not reflect the importance of healthcare worker jobs, but there is also a staffing crisis,” said Madeline Weirman, Creative Strategist for Tebra. “The Kaiser Permanente strike highlighted the importance of prioritising the well-being of healthcare workers.

Low staffing levels force workers to work more hours, often for no extra pay. The statistic of the majority of posting being for less than $60,000 compounds this; personal finance website GOBankingRates.com calculates that this salary would not be enough to live a comfortably in a dozen states and is barely enough for a dozen more.

With so many healthcare workers forced to strike, and with so many vacancies available, it is clear that workplaces will need to do more to hire and retain staff. It also reflects why the strikes were necessary and the results important.