Psychologists Marin in Kaiser Part of the Threat of Strike

Greater than 2,000 psychological well being staff at Kaiser Permanente, together with union psychologists in Marin, are threatening an open-ended strike beginning August 15.

The Nationwide Federation of Well being Care Employees, which represents staff in ongoing contract negotiations, says docs voted in June to permit the first-ever open-ended strike. The union says docs wish to pressure Kaiser to handle a scarcity of the suitable workers to satisfy sufferers’ wants.

Psychological well being staff in Kaiser Northern California — together with psychologists, therapists, chemical dependence counselors and social staff — have organized six strikes for brief durations of time over the previous 4 years. This would be the first violation for which an finish date has not been set.

“Sufferers are being robbed whereas Kaiser coffers swell,” stated Sal Rosselli, president of the union. “Our members plan to make use of the union’s instruments to convey their sufferers the care they deserve and the equality required by legislation.”

Deb Katsavas, Kaiser’s senior vp of human assets, stated the corporate has been negotiating with the Nationwide Federation of Well being Care Employees (NUHW) for the reason that contract for its 2,000 union members expired in September.

“We perceive that NUHW has introduced plans to strike — sadly, a bargaining tactic this union has used each time it has bargained for a brand new contract with Kaiser Permanente, over the previous 12 years of its existence,” Katsavas stated. “It’s baffling that NUHW leaders selected to strike after we had been about to achieve a deal.”

Katsavas didn’t reply to the union’s assertion that it had failed to rent sufficient psychological well being staff to satisfy the wants of its members.

In line with the union, Kaiser employs roughly one full-time psychological well being equal doctor for each 2,600 members. Because of this, the union says, sufferers who should obtain remedy each week or two wait months simply to begin their remedy and 4 to eight weeks between appointments.

Alexis Petrakis, a Kaiser psychologist in Petaluma who treats sufferers in each Petaluma and San Rafael, stated she’s ready to strike if that is what it takes to get Kaiser to rent extra psychological well being staff.

“I hope we do not have to take that step,” Petrakis stated, “however we’re actually at a degree the place sufferers cannot wait one other day. The urgency can’t be emphasised sufficient. We have to change ASAP. That is why I stand with my union.”

Petracis stated the usual of take care of sufferers who want individualized remedy is to schedule an appointment at the very least each 4 weeks.

“Proper now, my schedule is booked for six weeks,” she stated.

The union says Kaiser is failing to adjust to a brand new legislation, SB 221, which requires sufferers to obtain follow-up psychological well being remedy appointments inside 10 enterprise days of being initially seen.

Petrakis stated Kaiser complied with an earlier legislation requiring insurance coverage firms to offer preliminary psychological well being appointments inside 10 days by charging suppliers extra sufferers than they will deal with.

“We see a whole lot and a whole lot of individuals with none form of containment, so we will not give attention to our present sufferers and attempt to transfer them by their remedy,” Petrakis stated.

The overload makes it tough for Kaiser to retain docs, Petrakis stated.

“We lose actually good, actually expert, actually passionate therapists regularly,” she stated. “Two of the docs on the pediatric staff left this week.”

In line with the union, 377 Kaiser physicians based mostly in Northern California left their jobs between June 2021 and Could 2022, greater than double the 186 who left the earlier yr.

To make issues worse, Kaiser’s status amongst psychologists makes it much more tough to fill within the blanks, Petrakis stated.

“Now we have 16 vacancies in your entire division,” she stated. “I might not suggest any open positions to any of my community.”

Robert Laser, a psychologist who runs a personal observe in Kentfield and typically treats Kaiser sufferers who get permission to see outpatient therapists, stated he would not think about working with Kaiser.

“I do know from a few years of expertise that they may see a affected person many instances after which make them anticipate weeks or put them in group remedy,” Laser stated.

The state’s Division of Managed Well being Care fined Kaiser $4 million in 2013 for failing to offer well timed psychological well being remedy and once more in 2017 for failing to reveal Medicaid information. The division opened a brand new Kaiser Behavioral Well being Companies investigation in Could after complaints from sufferers.

Relating to compliance with SB 221, Kaiser spokeswoman Adriann McCall wrote in an e mail, “Though the scarcity of psychological well being physicians stays a problem for each California well being care establishment, SB 221’s implementation of the Kaiser Permanente Mannequin of Psychological Well being and Care Companies And habit is effectively within the works.”

“We all know that coaching and hiring extra therapists won’t be sufficient to satisfy the complicated and rising psychological well being wants of our inhabitants,” McCall added. “We should additionally have a look at new and revolutionary approaches to offering care.”

In response to questions on Kaiser’s plans for psychological well being care within the occasion of a strike, McCall stated: “Care shall be supplied by our psychological well being clinicians who’ve determined to proceed to offer care to our sufferers, psychiatrists, clinic administrators and emergency specialists and by increasing our community of third-party suppliers with Prime quality locally – all supported by our built-in groups of docs and clinicians.”

The assertion continued, “Pressing and emergency care will proceed to be given precedence. Some non-urgent appointments could should be rescheduled for one more day or with one other physician.”

Talks between the federation and the tsar continued on Friday with out reaching an settlement. Extra bargaining periods are scheduled for Wednesday and August 12.

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