Dental hygienists at Kaiser Permanente demonstrated in front of Kaiser’s headquarters in Northeast Portland April 24 to protest the health care provider’s move to eliminate the periodontal hygienist classification within its dental system.
Periodontal hygienists do specialized work in conjunction with periodontists to provide treatment of advanced gum disease. Twenty periodontal hygienists — in a bargaining unit of 140 registered dental hygienists — are members of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Healthcare Local 5017. The union filed a grievance claiming the action violates their collective bargaining agreement. The dispute has gone to binding arbitration. A date has not been set.
“It is extremely disappointing that Kaiser has recently promoted Dr. (Kenneth) Wright to the vice president of Dental Services, while at the same time he is eliminating an entire classification of specialized care, which will clearly impact the quality of care that Kaiser Dental has historically provided,” said Local 5017 Executive Director Edward Burke.
The union pointed to Kaiser’s own statistics showing the region’s dental membership has increased from 190,000 in 2011 to 205,000 in 2013.
“This growth is based on the excellent and focused care each patient receives,” Burke said.
The union said it plans to conduct more demonstrations at various dental clinics throughout the region on a random and unannounced basis. In the photo above from left to right, registered dental hygienists Jackie Farlinger-King and Kay Fun hold the union’s banner along with Local 5017 organizers Jeff Carr and Sharon Culley, and Executive Director Burke.