Kaiser workers protest mental health patient wait times in second strike

About 60 unionized workers are going on a one-day strike July 10 to protest long wait times for mental health patients at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

This is the workers' second strike since December 2018. Their contract expired in September 2018, and they are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

The California Department of Managed Care fined Kaiser $4 million in 2013 for insufficient patient access to mental health treatment. The agency also criticized Kaiser for delayed behavioral health treatment in 2017 but did not fine the health system, which is the largest in the nation.

Kaiser said it has improved its mental healthcare, but clinicians say patients still must wait weeks or months for follow-up appointments after a first visit.

"There has been a lot of misinformation circulating about Kaiser Permanente, our offer to our therapists and our commitment to mental health and wellness," a spokesperson for the health system said in an email statement to Becker's. Kaiser's most recent proposed contract will "keep our therapists the best compensated in California" and "make more time in therapists' schedules to see patients," among other benefits, according to the statement. 

Kaiser will be taking immediate measures to address challenges in staffing, spacing and workplace development while they await the outcome of the contract ratification vote, the statement said.

Editor's note: This story was updated July 10 at 4:45 p.m. with additional information.

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