Thousands of California healthcare workers strike demanding more mental health clinicians

Kaiser Permanente retains one mental health clinician per 2,600 members

Updated: August 15, 2022 - 5:44pm

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More than 2,000 California healthcare workers across Northern California went on strike against industry giant Kaiser Permanente demanding the firm hire more mental health clinicians to address a patient backlog.

“Patients are getting ripped off while Kaiser’s coffers are bulging,” Union President Sal Rosselli said, according to The Hill. “We don’t take striking lightly but it’s time to take a stand and make Kaiser spend some of its billions on mental health care."

“It is no longer tolerable for me to tell a young person and their family that their child needs to wait four to eight weeks for them to be seen for major depression, or trauma, or serious anxiety disorders,” said child psychologist Michael Torres to SFGATE. “I've been apologizing to people for 20 years, and nothing has improved at Kaiser.” 

The National Union of Health Care Workers asserts that Kaiser Permanente retains one mental health clinician per 2,600 members, meaning patients must often wait months between therapy sessions, the outlet noted.

The American Psychological Association sent a letter in 2020 to Kaiser Permanente saying the firm's policies caused “extreme wait times” and “disturbing” shortfalls in care for its patients, per SFGATE.

Kaiser, for its part, assured patients and the public that the firm would seek a fair settlement to the dispute.

“We are working hard to be ready to meet our patients’ mental health needs during the strike. Beginning this week, our patients will receive care from those mental health clinicians who choose patient needs over the strike, as well as from our psychiatrists, clinical managers, and other licensed professionals,” the healthcare giant said.

Senior officials at Kaiser, however, cast some scorn on the strikers. "It is especially disappointing that NUHW is asking our dedicated and compassionate employees to walk away from their patients when they need us most," wrote Senior Vice President of Human Resources Deb Catsavas, according to SFGATE. She, however, was confident the firm and its workers would bring the strike to a conclusion that addressed the issue adequately.