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Kaiser Strike: If You're a Patient, What Medical Services Will Be Affected?

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Workers holding signs in front of a building
Kaiser workers strike in front of the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center in Oakland on Oct. 4, 2023. (Martin do Nascimento/KQED)

Tens of thousands of Kaiser Permanente health care workers across six states went on strike this morning — including in California.

Kaiser controls half of California’s private insurance market, and has more than 9.4 million members across the state.

So if you’re a Kaiser patient, keep reading for what you need to know about the strike, who’s likely to be impacted and which medical services from Kaiser will be affected during this time.

How long would a Kaiser strike last?

Right now, the Kaiser strike in California is anticipated to last at least three days. It began at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4, and is expected to end at 6 a.m. on Saturday Oct. 7.

Who is on strike at Kaiser?

Nearly 75,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers across six states, including California, went on strike today.

The strike impacts nearly 68,000 Kaiser employees in California — 22,650 of which are in the Bay Area, according to the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions.

The union coalition says that jobs affected by the Kaiser strike will include: licensed vocational nurses, emergency department technicians, radiology technicians, ultrasound sonographers, teleservice representatives, respiratory therapists, x-ray technicians, certified nursing assistants, dietary services, behavioral health workers, surgical technicians, pharmacy technicians, transporters, home health aides, phlebotomists, medical assistants, and housekeepers, “among hundreds of other positions.”


What Kaiser services won’t be affected by a strike?

Neither the nurses union nor Kaiser’s physicians will be on strike, according to a statement Kaiser emailed to KQED, which also confirms that hospitals and emergency departments will remain open during any strike.

“Hospital pharmacies for inpatient care and critical infusion services will remain in operation” as well, according to the statement.

“Our facilities will be staffed by our physicians, trained and experienced managers and staff, and in some cases, we will augment with licensed and qualified contract staff,” said the statement.

You should not let any potential strike delay you from seeking care for a health emergency.

Related Coverage

What Kaiser services will be affected by a strike?

If you already have an appointment with Kaiser …

Kaiser said in its statement to KQED that during the strike, “in consultation with our physicians, we may need to reschedule certain non-urgent appointments and procedures, as long as that is appropriate and safe for the patient.”

If you have an existing appointment that’ll fall during the strike, Kaiser’s statement said the health system will “contact any patient affected by the strike in advance if necessary and work with them to reschedule their appointments.”

There’s no need for you to call or email your doctor’s office yourself, according to Kaiser.

If you need a laboratory, radiology or optical service …

“Some of our laboratory, radiology, and optical locations may be temporarily closed or operating with reduced hours during the strike,” said Kaiser. The company advises you to schedule an appointment online or via the KP mobile app.

What if you need lab work, radiology or optical services urgently? In this scenario, Kaiser advises that you call their Appointment and Advice Call Center at 1-866-454-8855 (TTY 711), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“As a result of the strike, we may experience high call volumes resulting in longer than usual wait times,” notes Kaiser’s statement.

If you’re looking for a COVID or flu shot …

“Some COVID-19 and flu vaccine services may be affected if a strike occurs,” Kaiser representatives told KQED in a statement.

If you’re looking for either a COVID or flu shot ASAP during the strike, you can still find one at a pharmacy near you — but you’ll likely have to pay for it. Usually, if you have health insurance you should be able to give your insurer’s details at a pharmacy vaccination appointment to have the cost of your shot billed to them, but health systems like Kaiser are the exception to this, and so you almost certainly won’t be able to get your new COVID vaccine — or flu shot — at a pharmacy like CVS or Walgreens. Read more about finding a new COVID vaccine near you.

If you need a prescription … 

Kaiser’s statement said that “some of our outpatient pharmacies” would be closed or operating on reduced hours in the event of a strike.

What if you have a new, urgent prescription need? Kaiser says that you should use your nearest open Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy for these, and that a list of open Kaiser pharmacies will be posted on the health system’s website “Tuesday evening.”

“Our physicians and our Pharmacy representatives at each of our sites and in the Pharmacy Call Center will work with patients to ensure they get the medications they need,” said Kaiser.

You can also use Kaiser’s mail-order delivery “for most convenient services, which delivers medications in 3 to 5 business days with no shipping fee,” according to the health system’s statement.

Kaiser’s hospital inpatient pharmacies will remain open, according to the health system, but Kaiser will look at “expanding” their network of pharmacies “to include community pharmacies that can serve our members during a strike and mitigate any closure of our outpatient pharmacies.”

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