Hold on to your meds, people, because L.A. could be in for a prescription drug crisis.
Pharmacists at Kaiser Permanente medical facilities in Southern California, which serve 3.5 million people, plan to go on strike starting at 7 a.m. Monday. Already there are 45-minute waits at some pharmacies, where patients are stocking up before the dispensaries close.
Kaiser says that, in the event of a strike, only hospital patients will be able to get their drugs:
The Guild for Professional Pharmacists says only patients who are checking out of Kaiser hospitals will be able to get prescriptions filled.
The guild, which has 1,400 members, says pharmacies in at least 14 Kaiser medical facilities in Southern California will be affected. Other medical facilities, including hospitals, will remain open, Kaiser says.
Guild president Robin Borden tells us picketers will be at all those pharmacy locations. She says union members have three demands:
-That Kaiser, which has been trying to shorten customer waits, give pharmacists more time to fill orders and get prescriptions right. She says that's an issue of safety.
-That the company give part-timers at least 20 hours a week of work, so that they can be eligible for health insurance.
-And that Kaiser restore pensions, which were removed three years ago under the false promise, she says, that all Kaiser workers eventually would lose the same benefit.
In a statement, Borden writes:
We think Kaiser bears a lot of responsibility for the way things currently are by depriving senior pharmacists of the retirement security they had counted on when hired and that they have earned after long years of service. They do not have sufficient time left in their career to save and invest enough money to cover the gap in their retirement savings left by the loss of pension. Kaiser pharmacists are the only employees in the Kaiser system who currently do not have a traditional pension
Kaiser spokeswoman Mayra Suarez said the company is preparing for the worst and has instructions on how members can get prescriptions filled off-site.
According to a Kaiser statement:
We believe the bargaining table is the best place to resolve differences and address the interests we both share.
With the good-faith involvement of all concerned, we are optimistic that we will continue to make progress toward a contract agreement.
It appears that both sides are open to a last-minute breakthrough. Borden of the union says negotiations were expected to go all day today and that union reps were available throughout the weekend.
Until then, there's always CVS.