Marin psychologists at Kaiser are part of the strike threat

Greater than 2,000 Kaiser Permanente psychological well being employees, together with unionized psychologists in Marin, are threatening to strike indefinitely starting August 15.

The Nationwide Union of Well being Staff, which represents workers in ongoing contract negotiations, says docs voted in June to authorize their first indefinite strike. The union says docs need to drive Kaiser to handle an absence of satisfactory workers to fulfill sufferers’ wants.

Kaiser Northern California psychological well being employees, together with psychologists, therapists, chemical dependency counselors and social employees, have held six short-term strikes within the final 4 years. This strike can be the primary to don’t have any set finish date.

“Sufferers are being ripped off whereas Kaiser’s coffers are overflowing,” mentioned Sal Rosselli, union president. “Our members plan to make use of the instruments of a union to get their sufferers the care they deserve and the parity required by legislation.”

Deb Catsavas, Kaiser’s senior vice chairman of human assets, mentioned the corporate has been negotiating with the Nationwide Union of Well being Care Staff (NUHW) because the union’s 2,000-member contract expired in September.

“We perceive that NUHW has sadly introduced strike plans, a bargaining tactic this union has used each time it has negotiated a brand new contract with Kaiser Permanente, for the final 12 years of its existence,” Catsavas mentioned. “It’s puzzling that NUHW leaders selected to strike after we had been near a deal.”

Catsavas didn’t reply to the union’s declare that it’s not hiring sufficient psychological well being employees to fulfill the wants of its members.

In line with the union, Kaiser has roughly one full-time equal psychological well being doctor for each 2,600 members. The union says that consequently, sufferers who ought to have 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, mentioned she’s ready to strike if that is what it takes for Kaiser to rent extra psychological well being employees.

“I hope we do not have to take that step,” Petrakis mentioned, “however we actually have reached some extent the place sufferers cannot wait one other day. The urgency can’t be burdened sufficient. We’d like a change ASAP. That’s the reason I’m standing with my union.”

Petrakis mentioned the usual of take care of sufferers deemed to wish particular person remedy is an appointment not less than each 4 weeks.

“Proper now, my time slot is booked for six weeks,” he mentioned.

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

Petrakis mentioned Kaiser has complied with a earlier legislation that requires insurers to offer preliminary psychological well being appointments inside 10 days by charging suppliers with extra sufferers than they’ll deal with.

“We see lots of and lots of of individuals with none form of containment,” Petrakis mentioned, “so we won’t deal with our current sufferers and attempt to assist them via their therapy.”

Petrakis mentioned the overload makes it tough for Kaiser to retain docs.

“We’re dropping actually good, actually expert, actually passionate therapists regularly,” he mentioned. “Two docs from the youngsters’s crew simply left this week.”

In line with the union, 377 Northern California-based Kaiser docs stop their jobs between June 2021 and Could 2022, greater than double the 186 who left the 12 months earlier than.

To make issues worse, Petrakis mentioned, Kaiser’s repute amongst psychologists makes it harder to fill vacancies.

“We now have 16 open positions all through the division,” he mentioned. “I’d not suggest any open place to anybody in my community.”

Robert Lasser, a psychologist who operates a non-public apply in Kentfield and infrequently treats Kaiser sufferers who’re licensed to see outdoors therapists, mentioned he wouldn’t take into account working for Kaiser.

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

The state Division of Managed Well being Care fined Kaiser $4 million in 2013 for failing to offer well timed psychological well being therapy and once more in 2017 for failing to reveal Medicaid knowledge. The division opened a brand new investigation of Kaiser’s behavioral well being companies in Could following affected person complaints.

Concerning compliance with SB 221, Kaiser spokeswoman Adriann McCall wrote in an electronic mail, “Whereas the psychological well being doctor scarcity continues to problem all California well being care organizations, the implementation of SB 221 in Kaiser Permanente’s psychological well being and addictions care and companies mannequin is effectively underway.”

“We all know that coaching and hiring extra therapists won’t be sufficient to fulfill the complicated and rising psychological well being wants of our inhabitants,” McCall added. “We additionally must search for new and modern approaches to offering care.”

Responding to questions on Kaiser’s plans to take care of psychological well being sufferers if a strike happens, McCall mentioned, “Our psychological well being physicians who select to proceed offering care to our sufferers, psychiatrists, medical managers, contingency professionals and thru from an growth of our community of high-quality third-party suppliers locally, all supported by our built-in groups of physicians and clinicians.”

The assertion went on to say that “pressing and emergency care will proceed to be prioritized. Some non-urgent appointments could should be rescheduled for one more day or with one other physician.”

Talks between the union and Kaiser continued on Friday with out reaching an settlement. Extra buying and selling classes are scheduled for Wednesday and August 12.

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