HAYWARD -- Pediatric nurses at Kaiser's Hayward hospital have been guaranteed jobs after the children's unit closes Sunday. and those young patients are shifted to Oakland.
Of the 22 pediatric hospital nurses in Hayward, 21 have new assignments, with about half of those transferring to Oakland, said Tom Hanenburg, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser. One has chosen not to apply.
Despite being assured they will be reassigned, nurses continue to fight the closure. Nurses will picket the Hayward hospital from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday to protest the closure.
"This isn't about us having jobs; it's about Kaiser closing its pediatric hospital unit and its effect on the community," said Lina Sciaroni, of Brentwood, a pediatric nurse in Hayward for 25 years. "Children in Fremont and Hayward will have to go to Oakland or Santa Clara. Just because our unit is closing does not mean the nurses are going to stop fighting for the children."
Few children are hospitalized in Hayward, averaging fewer than four a day, Kaiser administrators say. The Oakland hospital unit offers a higher level of care, with a team of pediatricians, surgeons, specialists and nurses, according to Kaiser. It also has a pediatric intensive care unit.
The pediatric medical offices in Hayward -- which provide more than 99 percent of the care children receive, according to Kaiser -- will remain open, as will those in Fremont and Oakland. In addition, Kaiser is adding new pediatric doctors' offices when it moves into its medical center and hospital in San Leandro in 2014.
"We are consolidating inpatient pediatrics in Oakland for a single excellent reason," Tom Hanenburg said. "The specialized medical expertise, technology and equipment -- and the larger volume of patients needed to sustain that higher level of care -- is what is best for our younger patients."
The head of Children's Hospital Oakland supports Kaiser's move.
"We understand and agree with Kaiser Permanente's decision to combine inpatient pediatrics in its Oakland hospital -- having a very small patient census is not sufficient to maintain an inpatient pediatrics service," Children's Hospital CEO and president Bertram Lubin said in a statement. "A comprehensive team of pediatric specialists, nurses, technicians and therapists means higher quality care and better outcomes for hospitalized children."
Kaiser's Oakland children's hospital unit has 33 beds, and its pediatric intensive care unit has an additional 10 beds. It will be able to handle children currently being hospitalized in Hayward, Hanenburg said. When Kaiser opens its new Oakland hospital next year, that will increase to 37 beds in the pediatrics unit and 12 in intensive care.
"We've done a careful review of our capacity at Oakland and what we would need for Hayward patients," he said.
Nurses contend that by closing the hospital unit in Hayward, Kaiser is reducing services to its members, requiring parents to drive farther in what can be heavy traffic. They want Kaiser to include a pediatrics unit in its new San Leandro hospital.
"We are not only nurses; we are patient advocates. We need to speak up for these children who cannot speak up for themselves," Sciaroni said. "What Kaiser is doing is wrong."