Kaiser mental health workers' strike expands to Hawaii

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers employed at Kaiser Permanente's facilities in Hawaii are set to begin an open-ended strike Aug. 29.

The union represents nearly 60 Kaiser psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, medical social workers, case manager nurses and chemical dependency counselors in Hawaii.

Union members in Hawaii will join their California colleagues who began an open-ended strike Aug. 15, according to an Aug. 29 union news release. Kaiser mental health professionals in Hawaii also went on strike in May. Kaiser Hawaii told Becker's in a statement that Kaiser has bargained in good faith during negotiations and is "committed to reaching a fair and equitable agreement. We have the greatest respect and gratitude for our mental health professionals, and we are dedicated to supporting them in their important work."

The union contends Kaiser's mental health clinics in Hawaii are understaffed, leading to dangerously long wait times for therapy sessions that surpass clinical guidelines. "It's never been harder for Kaiser patients to access mental healthcare, and Kaiser's proposals at the bargaining table would make things even worse. The only choice we have at this point is to strike for as long as it takes to make Kaiser meet the needs of our patients and stop understaffing our clinics," Darah Wallsten, a clinical psychologist at Kaiser's Hilo Clinic, said in a union news release.

"We take any potential disruption of services very seriously and have plans to ensure our members and patients continue to receive safe, high-quality care," Kaiser Hawaii's statement reads.

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