Kaiser Mental Health Professionals Set To Strike Monday

August 15, 2022 8:00 am · 25 comments

More than 2,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health professionals in Northern California and the Central Valley are set to begin what organizers call an “open ended strike” Monday morning.

Negotiations involving management and psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and chemical dependency counselors ended without resolution Saturday.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers said in a statement Sunday that Kaiser rejected “union proposals to increase staffing and end dangerously long waits for mental health therapy appointments.”

Employees plan to walk picket lines from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at Kaiser facilities in San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, and Sacramento.

The union said during bargaining Friday and Saturday, clinicians accepted a wage offer from management, but Kaiser rejected a proposal including provisions aimed at increasing staffing and reducing appointment wait times.

“We’ve been telling Kaiser executives since day one that this isn’t about money,” said Jennifer Browning, a Kaiser social worker in Roseville and part of the union’s bargaining team. “It’s about our professional integrity and our ability to provide care that will help patients get better.”

Kaiser released a statement Sunday, saying despite the coming walkout, they have plans to meet patients’ needs. Deb Catsavas, Kaiser’s senior vice president of human resources in Northern California, said there are two main issues.

“One is wage increases and the other is the union’s demand to increase the time therapists spend on tasks other than seeing patients,” Catsavas said. “The primary role – and essential need – for our therapists is to provide mental health care and treat our patients. The remaining issue being negotiated with NUHW is the amount of time therapists spend on administrative tasks such as documentation, planning and other office activities rather than directly treating patients.

“In recognition of our therapists’ concerns and priorities, we have proposed an increase in the scheduled time allocated to administrative tasks, but the union is demanding still more administrative time.”

Catsavas said Kaiser recently reached an agreement with the same union in Southern California for 1,900 mental health professionals.

Kaiser said some clinicians will remain on the job, and it has expanded its network of “high-quality community providers and will continue to prioritize urgent and emergency care.” Some non-urgent appointments may need to be rescheduled and patients whose appointments may be affected will be contacted directly prior to the date of the appointment.

The union said state law requires Kaiser to pay for out-of-network services if it’s unable to provide urgent mental health appointments within 48 hours, and non-urgent appointments within 10 business days, unless the therapist determines that a longer wait would not be detrimental to the patient’s health.

LocalAntiLib August 15, 2022 at 8:13 AM

Getting rid of the union is the first step for the future.
Unions suck, they always have.

Lori R August 15, 2022 at 9:59 AM

Try getting an appt with Kaiser and then talk about the Unions, they are fighting for the patients the staff shortages are real

Ricardoh August 15, 2022 at 10:38 AM

Don’t agree with you on unions. I think some unions like those for government workers are not that good, but those for trades people are pretty beneficial. Doesn’t mean they are perfect but I have worked some non union jobs and the employers were just horrible.

Concord74 August 15, 2022 at 8:30 AM

What am I going to do??? I am a KAISER member and if I have an “incident”, do I demand “suicide by cop”??? Oh, woe is me!! I cannot make a decision unless one of these workers hold my hand!
Guess I’ll just have to go to SF and join the Weenie-Weiner in the gutter!!

Amateur Teacher August 15, 2022 at 9:37 AM

Fun fact- doctors aren’t “allowed” to unionize and their Kaiser contract is so prepared for non-MD strikes that it has a clause where all vacations are rescinded during a strike and docs are expected to do anything necessary to meet patient needs. Great stuff.

Janus August 15, 2022 at 11:59 AM

Fun fact – Physicians employed by a hospital or healthcare system CAN unionize as long as they are actual employees. Typically, this means being paid a salary reported on a W-2 form. Salaried doctors at public hospitals can also unionize. This necessary status as an employee excludes supervisors.

It might be “unethical” for doctors to unionize but it is not prohibited under National Labor Relations Act of 1935.

Doctors at Kaiser belong to the The Permanente Medical Group – the for profit part of Kaiser and are partners. Kaiser doctors are not employees but owners so by definition they cannot organize against themselves.

Ricardoh August 15, 2022 at 9:39 AM

As you could expect in today’s world there is an increasing number of people seeking mental help. The employees are saying because they have so many patients they can’t do a professional job caring for them. They are overworked they are not saying they are underpaid. I think Kaiser just took on a whole load of patients recently.

Oh, please August 16, 2022 at 11:02 AM

This is why I won’t work for Kaiser. They make you work 2 jobs. They pay well, but I would rather have a life.

Noj August 15, 2022 at 9:58 AM

“We’ve been telling Kaiser executives since day one that this isn’t about money,” said Jennifer Browning, a Kaiser social worker in Roseville and part of the union’s bargaining team. “It’s about our professional integrity and our ability to provide care that will help patients get better.”

Yeah, sure, Jen. Sure, $$$$$$$$$$$$

Dawg August 15, 2022 at 10:01 AM

It’s not just Kaiser, the county is just as bad or worse. I keep hearing that the mentally ill need help, but it’s not that easy. When a person calls to make an appointment, they are told It will be 6 to 12 months, or longer, and they will put on a waiting list. When somebody is having a serious mental episode, they are usually in need of immediate help. Another problem they’re facing is that illegals are now eligible for health care, and that in and of itself is increasing the waiting time. Almost all mental health workers are staunch Democrats, and that’s another issue, because like most Dems, they will continue voting Democrat, expecting them to fix the problem.

Jean August 15, 2022 at 10:20 AM

Listen closely….when you use a therapist at Kaiser, your documentation is not secure. Any doctor, Kaiser researcher, or outside researcher Kaiser grants permission to can read the notes from ALL your Kaiser visits. This includes women’s health visits AND counseling sessions. During your next visit to Kaiser, ask the NP to open your main account page for review. She can click on any tab for you and you can read your counseling notes. Not O.K. Any discussions with your obgyn, or mental health care professional, should be confidential. Add that to the bargain table.

theunforgiven August 15, 2022 at 10:36 AM

These mental health workers are just there for a paycheck and to push big pharma pills so insurance company’s can charge out the ying yang for the medications that cost penny’s in other country’s. These people are sick and don’t care that most these SSRI’s have an opposite effect and make you more suicidal and depressed. They just love to feel better than you driving in their expensive electric cars and telling everyone they are a medical worker and how essential their job is.

There is a reason they say psychopaths do so well in the workplace climbing the ladder because they are willing to climb on everyone’s shoulders kicking teeth in to get to the top and do whatever it takes even if that means push pills on people that can fix their problems with just a better diet, exercise and healthy dose of getting outside in the sun and nature.

Dawg August 15, 2022 at 12:07 PM

Except for psychiatrists, mental health workers are not medical doctors, and cannot write a prescription.

Jessica August 15, 2022 at 2:38 PM

@Dawg I know, right? People sure do have a lot to say about things they know nothing about.

Gittyup August 15, 2022 at 5:05 PM

Western medicine is based on the work of the Greek philosopher who when asked why he kept hitting himself on the head with a hammer replied, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”

Exit 12A August 15, 2022 at 10:51 AM

.
During a pandemic?
.
They’re crazy!

Ricardoh August 15, 2022 at 11:42 AM

We used to have places for mental patients. We got rid of them and now the mental patients sleep on our sidewalks. There are so many things wrong with our country. Nothing is treated with common sense it is all up to lawyers to make decisions and they are all over the place. Courts and lawyers are not the way to go, add in the Woke and there is trouble in River City.

Jessica August 15, 2022 at 2:40 PM

“In 1981 President Ronald Reagan, who had made major efforts during his Governorship to reduce funding and enlistment for California mental institutions, pushed a political effort through the U.S. Congress to repeal most of MHSA.”

Chicken Little August 15, 2022 at 3:23 PM

Yeah, 1981. 41 years ago. And the party in power is still content to point fingers, rather than do anything to actually fix the problem.

Ricardoh August 15, 2022 at 4:22 PM

Jessica Reagan made a provision to make grants to states instead of federalizing mental institutions. At any rate that was a long time ago and with all of the problems we have now nothing new to solve the problem is in the works because the mentally ill are not a big voting block. With no one to pander to or payoff nothing much gets done. I may add that the ACLU was instrumental in closing mental hospitals.

WC Resident August 15, 2022 at 5:28 PM

Defunding mental institutions had widespread public and bipartisan support at the time. Problems tend to develop when you put people in positions of power over other people.

Reasonable August 15, 2022 at 12:17 PM

I ditched Kaiser a long time ago. Wanted insurance that doesn’t restrict what docs I want to see. A bit more expensive.

LocalAntiLib August 16, 2022 at 5:49 AM

Kaiser does not restrict what doctors you can see. You can choose any doctored that has openings for new patients. If you happen to want a particular doctor and he or she has no openings for new patients and of course you cannot choose that doctor but has nothing to do with the insurance policy and rules that are allowing that to happen for other reasons their doctors have a certain load that they take on and they don’t overwhelm them with too many patients.
You obviously don’t know what your talking about with that statement

Chicken Little August 16, 2022 at 8:00 AM

@LocalAntiLib,
What if you want to see a non-Kaiser doctor?

redrazor August 16, 2022 at 11:25 AM

+100 to Reasonable. I wouldn’t let Kaiser event touch my cat!😝

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