Kaiser Disputes Mental Health Workers’ Claims of Inadequate Care
Kaiser Permanente mental health workers have raised concerns about growing wait times leading to inadequate care at the health system's facilities, but Kaiser says the concerns already have been addressed, the Daily Review/San Jose Mercury News reports (Parr, Daily Review/San Jose Mercury News, 11/21).
The National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents 2,500 Kaiser mental health clinicians, recently voted to authorize a strike over long patient wait times and an ongoing contract dispute.
Kaiser in September agreed to pay a $4 million fine levied by state regulators over the issue, but mental health workers say the health system's attempts to address the issue have not worked (California Healthline, 11/21).
Reasons for Strike
Mental health care workers say Kaiser's wait times have gotten longer since it agreed to pay the fine.
Marcy Reda, a clinical social worker at Kaiser's Walnut Creek Medical Center, said some patients have to wait two months or more for an appointment because the facility is "so understaffed."
Mental health clinicians have requested that Kaiser hire more workers to address the increase in demand for their services.
However, Clement Papazian, a psychiatric social worker at Kaiser's Oakland Medical Center, said the health system has not acted quickly on the request.
Reda said, "They keep dismissing our patient care concerns by saying this is a labor dispute," adding, "This is not a contract strategy. It is about patient care and the ethical and moral dilemma we have as clinicians when we cannot provide care for our patients."
The union also has called for the resignation of Cynthia Telles, a psychologist and Kaiser board member, because of her inaction.
Kaiser maintains it has worked to hire more mental health workers. In an emailed statement, Kaiser said, "We have hired hundreds of therapists in California over the past several years, and are working to hire more."
Meanwhile, Kaiser has dismissed the union's tactics as a way to increase its membership.
John Nelson, a Kaiser vice president, said, "As part of [the union's actions], the union has attacked Kaiser Permanente leadership and board members through public boycotts, media campaigns and public disruptions" (Daily Review/San Jose Mercury News, 11/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.