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Thousands of mental healthcare workers began a five-day strike as they attempt to negotiate a new contact with the Kaiser Permanente to protest what they say is a lack of staffing that affects care.
The strike will include 4,000 mental healthcare workers and impact more than 100 Kaiser locations. Communities in Sacramento, south Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Vallejo, Vacaville, and Roseville should expect to see picket lines at certain Kaiser locations throughout the week.
Some non-urgent mental health and other appointments may need to be rescheduled but anyone in need of urgent mental health or other health care will receive the services they need, said Elita Fielder, a spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente.
Here’s what you need to know.
Who is striking?
The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), who represent the mental healthcare workers, is negotiating a new contract with Kaiser Permanente and is striking for five days.
Workers in the strike include: therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and addiction medicine specialists.
How long will it last?
The strike began at 6 a.m. Monday, Dec. 10, and will continue until 6 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 15.
What do they want?
Union workers said they are negotiating for a “fair contract.”
NUHW’s talking points complaints have included:
- Patients endure extensive waits of nearly two months mental health service appointments and drop out of treatment.
- Staffing shortages: The union has criticized that staffing has been “essentially unchanged since 2015” with one clinician for every 3,000 Kaiser members in California. They want more staffing to end long waits for therapy appointments.
- Clinicians want more authority in how often they see their patients and for Kaiser to use its resources to improve their mental health system and make improvements for patients.
Kaiser Permanente talking points:
- Staffing has increased by 30 percent since 2015, resulting in more than 500 new therapists in California.
- $175 million has been invested in improve mental health care offices.
- According to Michelle Gaskill-Hames, Chief Nurse Executive for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, the union is said to be seeking higher wages and changes that would reduce availability of mental health care for patients.
What services are available during the strike?
Even though the strike will impact more than 100 locations, all hospitals and medical offices will be open.
However, there will be some impacts to mental health services. Some non-urgent services are being rescheduled during the strike, but those with need for urgent mental health care or other care will get the services they need from the organization.