Four thousand California mental health clinicians began a five-day strike Dec. 10 to protest what they call understaffing issues that lead to long wait times for therapy appointments.
The strike affects more than 100 Kaiser Permanente clinics and medical facilities, according to the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents psychologists, therapists, social workers, addiction medicine specialists and other mental health clinicians.
Workers are striking at Los Angeles Medical Center, Anaheim Medical Center, Fontana Medical Center, San Diego Medical Center, Fresno Medical Center, Sacramento Medical Center, San Francisco Medical Center and San Jose Medical Center.
“The situation inside Kaiser clinics has become untenable,” said Kenneth Rogers, a psychologist for Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser. “We don’t have enough hours in the day to see patients and do all the preparation and follow-up work that goes into every appointment. Patients are suffering and unable to access clinically appropriate care.”
Union president Sal Rosselli told The Mercury News mental health workers also seek benefits and pensions that are equal to what about 100,000 other Kaiser employees receive.
John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser Permanente, expressed disappointment about the strike.
“We are disappointed the leadership of the National Union of Healthcare Workers would ask our highly valued mental health staff to go out on strike, when we’ve been in active negotiations since the summer, having met in 16 bargaining sessions over five months, and with two more bargaining sessions scheduled for next week,” he told Becker’s last month.
“There are no takeaways in our contract proposal,” Mr. Nelson said. “We are offering guaranteed wage increases which would keep our expert therapists among the best compensated in their profession and continue to ensure that we attract and retain the most highly skilled professionals.”
Kaiser told The Mercury News its medical centers and medical offices are scheduled to remain open during the walkout, although “some nonurgent mental health and other appointments may need to be rescheduled.”