FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Hundreds of frontline healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente in Fresno and across the state hit the picket lines on Wednesday after their contracts expired at the end of September.
"There are four or five-hour waits in the emergency department, which is ridiculous; we can't get to the patients in time, and it's bad for patient's care," said Orlando Vega, Emergency Room Tech at Kaiser.
Melanie Reno, a cytotechnologist at Kaiser, says many employees are also patients impacted by the staffing crisis.
"I got diagnosed with cancer last year, I went an entire year, I never saw a doctor in person," said Reno.
Reno adds that getting the care you need without seeing a physician face-to-face is not ideal.
"It's scary because when you are just getting the phone appointments or just communicating via email, you don't know what you don't know," said Reno.
Workers say they have been negotiating since April for increased staffing levels at hospitals and medical centers.
Kaiser sent Action News a statement, reading in part:
"We take any threat to disrupt care for our members seriously and have plans in place to ensure we can continue to provide safe, high-quality care should a strike occur. We apologize for any inconvenience this unnecessary strike may cause."
Hospitals and emergency departments will remain open, but some pharmacies, laboratory, radiology and optical locations may be closed or have reduced hours due to the strike.
We spoke with one person leaving the hospital today who says there were fewer workers, but his appointment went off without a hitch.
"It's a little bit different, but I think everybody tries to do the best for them," said Kaiser patient Daniel Garcia.
Workers say it's also impacting them, saying they got into this industry to help others, and now they are in pain.
"We have employees that are suffering injuries because of the short staffing," explained Samantha Preziosi, an industrial reporter at Kaiser. "They're making them see so many patients a day that it's just getting worse and worse."
Workers say they plan to continue picketing for the next three days, until Saturday, unless they come to an agreement sooner.
Despite the strike, Kaiser and the union say they have both continued negotiations all day.