Kaiser Permanente mental health clinicians prepare for 5-day walkout

About 4,000 mental health clinicians of Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente are prepared to hold a five-day strike in November at more than 100 clinics and medical facilities statewide, the union that represents them announced.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents Kaiser psychologists, social workers, therapists and other healthcare professionals, said Oct. 23 workers are calling on Kaiser to "fix its broken mental healthcare system" by not making patients wait weeks or months for therapy appointments.

"We won't let Kaiser get away with half-measures and empty promises that will still leave our patients waiting far too long to see their therapists," Kaiser social worker Clement Papazian said in a news release. "It's inexcusable that Kaiser clinicians have to apologize to our patients every day for the lack of care Kaiser provides."

Kaiser mental health clinicians have been working without a contract for more than a year, according to the union. Some of the professionals protested Oct. 13 and Oct. 14 what they called barriers to mental health access outside two of the healthcare giant's facilities in Oakland and Los Angeles.  A union representative previously told Becker's Hospital Review about 100 workers protested in Los Angeles Oct. 14 during working hours, and 140 to 150 people, including workers and community allies, protested in Oakland Oct. 13. Kaiser mental health clinicians also ended a five-day strike in December.

John Nelson, vice president of communications at Kaiser, expressed disappointment in the union's most recent strike plans.

"Once again, the leadership of the National Union of Healthcare Workers is threatening that it will call on our mental health therapists to walk away from their patients," he said in an emailed statement to Becker's. "This strike threat does not make sense, given where we are in terms of advancing care, offering generous wages and benefits, and investing in expanding the mental health workforce. It is disheartening that union leadership would be so willing to sacrifice the needs of our patients, just to use them as contract bargaining chips."

Mr. Nelson said Kaiser has not received an official strike notice from the union, as required by law. He said Kaiser hopes a walkout is averted but has plans in place to ensure care continues if a strike takes place.

 

More articles on human resources:
Hawaii workers at Kaiser affiliate approve contract
New York hospital's nurse recruitment violates trafficking law, union says
Mount Sinai Hospital workers join Chicago teachers strike in solidarity 

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