Kaiser Permanente reached out to striking mental health doctors to request bargaining sessions on Thursday and Friday, saying the company remains “committed to finding a fair and equitable agreement that is good for our therapists and patients.”
The National Federation of Health Care Workers represents just over 2,000 Psychologists, social workers and counselors Providing behavioral health services to Kaiser members. They were On strike in Northern California Since August 15.
“In the days leading up to the NUHW leadership’s decision to go ahead with their strike, Kaiser Permanente was working hard to reach agreement on a new contract,” company leaders said in a statement Tuesday. “Our latest offer, made the weekend before the strike, includes a previously NUHW-approved economic offer, with competitive annual wage increases, a lump sum cash payment and a retroactive cash payment of up to $6,300.”
The company also said its latest proposal addressed union concerns about working conditions. Kaiser offered to allow doctors to spend 18% of their time on tasks other than seeing patients, up from 15%. Kaiser officials said they have extended the deadline for their latest offer.
NUHW President Sal Rosselli said the union’s negotiating team will meet with Kaiser on Thursday.
“Our members have shown incredible determination and remain determined to strike as long as it takes to get Kaiser to meet the mental health care needs of its patients,” he said. We’ve already agreed to a Kaiser pay offer. This strike relates to patient care, and Kaiser’s compromise offer before the strike began would not have addressed an acute shortage of staff at Kaiser mental health clinics that is forcing patients to wait months for mental health treatment sessions in violation of state law and has led to Kaiser therapists leaving in droves over the past year.”
Behavioral health workers at Kaiser have told The Bee in phone interviews and on the picket line that their main concern wasn’t salary. They said they are determined to improve working conditions that have caused many of their colleagues to leave the company, and high turnover they say is overwhelming the remaining doctors.
Ken Rogers, a Kaiser psychologist who practices in Elk Grove, said the 3% increase in what Kaiser calls administrative work would be an “incremental change” that would do little to attract and retain behavioral health clinicians.
“Even if we type the notes manually in the session, we have to record them on the computer and they have to be in a certain format,” Rogers said. “Sometimes we have to check… their behavioral health statistics: the numbers in the surveys, the things they filled out. We have to ask them about that. My job is actually pretty much involved when it comes to these kinds of things. It’s not really : You come in. You sit on the sofa. We have 50 minutes, and then we’re done.”
Because the insurance company doesn’t have enough therapists, Rogers and others said patients wait two or three months for follow-up appointments that they should have within 10 business days. Often, Rogers said, he and his colleagues schedule patients for lunch hours and the time allotted for this “administrative work.”
Kaiser said the behavioral health services unit turnover is no greater than the national average for all health care workers.
“Over the past five years, we have added hundreds of new mental health clinicians to our workforce,” company leaders said in a previous statement. “We have worked hard to increase the number of therapists in California and invested $30 million to build a pipeline to educate and train new mental health professionals across the state. We have greatly expanded our ability to provide virtual care to patients who want it, which has increased convenience and access.” “
The California Department of Managed Health Care She launched an investigation into whether the company was providing timely access to behavioral health care amid the strike. Consumers can reach the DMHC at 888-466-2219 or at www.healthhelp.ca.gov.