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Kaiser Permanente and Worker's Compensation 
This Section of the Kaiser Papers is for the Employees of Kaiser and The Permanente


Astraea Kelly - Kaiser Permanente Employee Victim of SARS



In the Spring of 2003, Astraea Kelly a Respiratory Therapist with Kaiser Permanente came down with a virus syndrome with a fever of unknown etiology and neurological symptoms that follow a classical presentation of SARS that seems to be also affecting several other patients and employees at the Kaiser Permanente Vallejo facility. Her patients had the same symptom presentations and while she was around no one else had those symptoms. 

Twelve patients in her unit died from this SARS like disease between May 2 and May 6, 2003.  Astraea has been off of work since May 9, 2003 because of this illness.

Her symptoms began with 3 days of diarrhea, a temperature running between 100 to 101 degrees, heaviness in the chest, wheezing, and she almost had to undergo oxygen therapy. [She’s still recovering in July 2003.] What troubled her was the fact that so many patients in her unit presented the exact same pattern of symptoms. According to Astraea, 20 patients died in a period of one month, including those 12 who  died in that period of just 4 days, and all from the same pattern of illness as was reported by By Carl F. Worden -Sierra Times.com - links formerly at:http://www.sierratimes.com/03/05/20/ar_sara_worden.htm

In June of this year severe cases of pnuemonia were still coming in and Kaiser staff had to relocate the patients to other facilities.  In particular, several patients were relocated to Kaiser Permanente Sacramento.  Sacramento is a long way from Vallejo by my map and if isolation was the purpose of this transfer it appears that there are other Kaiser Permanente facilities in more rural areas that could have handled the containment.  In short I have no idea why these people were sent to another metropolitan area for medical care.

Of the eight Kaiser employees that were put on sick leave because of this illness only two have recovered and returned to work as of July 30,2003.

"I believe MOST of this symptom contamination or a great majority of it could have been minimized by proper staff
education and isolation procedures to disease patterns, even though  the patients weren't strictly in the right travel areas 
for SARS."

"We may have had mutations or other problems. It has cost many patients their health and staff members have had very serious problems. 

Many facilities made mistakes, but admitting this and taking appropriate care of the patients and the staff after exposures to some very serious virus syndrome, that may be expensive to Kaiser, will be necessary.  Kaiser made the isolation or non isolation decisions that it did, and it needs to provide the best care for our lives.   If they are concerned about "costs",  [then they should] buy  the proper masks and eye goggles for the staff and do it right.  Then they won't have so many costs." said Astraea.

Right now Astraea has requested that other patients that have had this illness this year at Kaiser Permanente contact her directly.

Astraea Kelly can be reached at: wingsong@earthlink.net

Update as of August 6, 2003 - All disciplinary charges against Astraea have been dropped. Attempting to warn people of a  potentially infectious disease is not cause for displinary action or violation of any policies, the other union members might want to know that.

"What we are waiting for now is the determination of whether workers comp will rule that I am a workers comp case or not.
Then I will be meeting with a recruiter under the liaison with my steward and interviewed for non direct patient care placement and what skills that I have that can be used in another direction.

I am going to request another month off with my physician to get my physical therapy consult and build my leg muscle mass back for an additional month before attempting another job.   It will give me time to get some of these other symptoms
stabilized.   I still have recurrent diarrhea now and still vomiting in now 8 day cycles.   No fever.  Pain is starting to decrease. I still have to nap unexpectedly and my energy isn't quite up to a normal position just yet, but overall I am continuing to improve each week.  I think if I build my endurance and muscles up for another month and finish my MRI to my head and another ultrasound to my pelvis scheduled this month, that I will be ready to assume a different job.   I am not going back on the front lines again.

My trust is ruined in the management stand that we saw NO UNUSUAL pasterns of illness.   Even the physicians aren't saying that to their patients.  They are saying "we are having a late and unusual pneumonia and flu season, it could be something else". 

I have been told the same thing "this is NOT A NORMAL VIRUS" and I hear the doctors telling the other patients the same things  every time I go for my outpatient visits or have to go to Urgent Care for screening.

So we have some DRASTIC inconsistencies here then on what the state agencies can see in the charts, don't we?

As brutal of a procedure and as punishing to the injured worker as this whole 90 days has been to me, I will never go through it again
or risk myself again on the front lines of patient care........and then have someone turn around and say there are no patterns, while an employee with a virus syndrome is dying and on a ventilator.   That doesn't bode well for "trust" does it? 
I am not mad at the patients.  They are victims just like I am of a very brutal and indifferent state or health care system that will sacrifice safety for lies and bucks and apparently state agencies that are willing to not only overlook it, but support that behavior.  There is an article today on AP news that more people are moving out of California than are moving in.
I wonder why?" 

ak 

P.S.  I ran into another employee today after coming out of an attorney consult (my case is very strong advisement) and
they were sick for 4 months on disability also for a virus syndrome that still has not healed for them.  They have returned to work mainly for financial stress on disability, but they are still cycling symptoms every few days like I am and they are quite miserable working.

How many others are doing this?  But management can see no unusual patterns and neither can the state agencies, or so Kaiser says.
            "How many flus have you had that took you out of work for four months? "

ak
 

For further information on SARS go to
CDC SARS Information as of July 15, 2003
In California there have been 39 reported cases of SARS
29 Suspected Cases of SARS
10 Probable Cases of SARS



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