Surgery Day Program Victory Guarantees UNAC/UHCP Members are Covered

March 2012

UNAC/UHCP strongly supports Kaiser’s efforts to partner with local charitable community clinics to provide donated surgical procedures to uninsured and underinsured patients on weekends through the Surgery Day Program. UNAC/UHCP raised concerns over the Surgery Day Program because of the potential risks placed on volunteering RNs, NPs, and PAs who were not covered by standard workplace protections while volunteering for the community organizations. After Kaiser failed to redress our concerns, we filed a regional grievance to ensure Kaiser would adequately protect participants who were generously volunteering their time, but were unknowingly putting themselves at risk.

We identified three areas of concern with health care professionals not being recognized as Kaiser employees when participating in Kaiser’s Surgery Day Program:

(1) If you were injured at a Surgery Day, Kaiser’s workers compensation may not cover you when you are volunteering for a third-party charity because you would not be working for Kaiser. Without Kaiser employee status, you would be dependent upon the charity to have workers compensation to cover you, and the charity’s workers compensation likely would not extend beyond its employees to cover one-time volunteers.

(2) If there were a bad patient outcome during the surgery, Kaiser may not be required to indemnify you. This means Kaiser potentially would not provide you with legal representation during a healing arts board investigation and hearing on the event, as Kaiser would be required to do if you were acting as an employee during the surgery. Again, the charity’s insurance likely would not extend to legal representation of one-time volunteers.

(3) Federal labor law prohibits you from “volunteering” to perform the exact work that you are paid to do at your regular worksite. UNAC/UHCP strives to ensure hard-fought legal protections are followed and not undermined in any way.
UNAC/UHCP’s steadfast prosecution of the regional grievance has led to a negotiated settlement agreement, rectifying the above concerns. When you sign up to participate in a Surgery Day, you will be treated as an employee of Kaiser on the surgery day, but you will be required to complete a form to donate to the partnering charity 60% of your salary earned on the surgery day, as 60% represents your net salary after applicable withholdings. Being considered a Kaiser employee ensures coverage by Kaiser’s workers compensation and indemnification obligations. In addition to donating your time and services, the charity will also have a monetary donation to use toward its mission. This expands your contribution to the Surgery Day Program, while being protected if an injury or negative outcome were to occur.

Because Kaiser will now be paying wages, which will in turn largely be donated to the charity, the agreement requires that overtime not be incurred by participating employees. While full-time RNs will have first preference, they must take steps to ensure overtime is not incurred that week such as taking a day of education leave, vacation, life-balance, or PTO (which are not counted toward weekly overtime) during the workweek when the Surgery Day occurs. Next part-time RNs who will not incur overtime pay if they work on the weekend surgery day will be selected, and followed by per diem RNs who will not incur overtime pay if they work on the weekend surgery day.

UNAC/UHCP fought this grievance to make sure our members are protected from unnecessary risk while they selflessly provide quality care to the community.