Kaiser Permanente pharmacists threaten to walk off job

Strike would take effect May 19

PALM DESERT, Calif. -  14 hundred pharmacists who work for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California are threatening to go on strike on Monday.

A work stoppage would force most of the health providers' pharmacies to close including three in the Coachella Valley.

The workers union, the Guild for Professional Pharmacists, says bargaining sessions on a new contract have bogged down on three key issues:  a restoration of pensions that were frozen three years ago, more hours for part-time pharmacists and a better emphasis on patient safety.

Union member Dr. Enrique Gaete, who works at the Kaiser clinic in Palm Desert, said  the union believes the health provider is too concerned about filling prescriptions quickly, rather than accurately.

"It's a process that entails much more than just counting pills.  We have to check the drug reactions, drug interaction -  we have to have time for that," he said.

If pharmacists go on strike, Kaiser has made arrangements with seven outside pharmacy chains where members can get their prescriptions filled.  Also, in the event of a work stoppage, all Kaiser medical facilities will remain open and pharmacy services won't be interrupted for hospitalized patients.

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