Company, Union Agree to Patient Safety Practices

Kaiser Permanente and a coalition of AFL-CIO unions representing 60,000 health care workers have joined forces to promote patient safety practices.

Kaiser Permanente and a coalition of AFL-CIO unions representing 60,000 of its unionized health care workers have joined forces to promote patient safety practices with Kaiser Permanente's medical facilities nationwide.

Beginning with a series of meetings this month, Kaiser Permanente and its unions will develop strategies to more fully engage the union-represented work force in efforts to develop and enhance future and current patient safety initiatives and to provide them the protection they need to fully participate.

"The key to ensuring patient safety is fixing systems that allow errors to occur despite the best efforts of individual providers of health care," said Dr. David Lawrence, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan's chief executive officer. "This agreement will allow us to tap into the vast reservoir of knowledge that exists among those at the front lines who know best how to improve those systems."

"If we want to identify problems in those systems, we must assure workers that they can report medical errors without fear of retribution," said Peter DiCicco, executive director of the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, AFL-CIO. "That can only happen if we create the safeguards that allow us to develop a culture of responsible reporting within the organization."

Last week, Kaiser Permanente and union officials participated in a meeting with health care policy experts to develop policy statements that would support the improvement of patient safety and guide the creation of legislation to provide the legal protection needed by both workers and health care institutions to foster better reporting of medical errors.

At the end of the month, union officials will participate in a gathering of Kaiser Permanente staff from throughout the country to catalogue patient safety efforts in the organization's local operations, develop a master plan for coordinating those efforts on a national basis, and select a major patient safety initiative that will be implemented throughout Kaiser Permanente.

"We hope to emerge from these two meetings with a firm game plan or enhancing Kaiser Permanente's patient safety efforts by engaging front-line patient care workers, and a public policy agenda to support it," DiCicco said.

Kaiser Permanente is an integrated health care organization founded in 1945 as a nonprofit, group-practice prepayment program.

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