The Kaiser’s mental health strike enters Day 3 with the picket moving to Maui

The Kaiser mental health strike moves to Maui today as the indefinite event enters Day 3. Doctors with the National Union of Healthcare Operators will hold a picket line today, August 31, from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm at the Kaiser Maui Lani Medical Office, located at 55 Maui Lani Parkway in Wailuku.

Throughout the state, Kaiser Permanente mental health workers, represented by the NUHW union, began the strike on Monday with picket lines in Honolulu and other locations in O’ahu. Following today’s Maui picket line, the strike line will shift to Hawai’i Island on Thursday before returning to O’ahu over Labor Day weekend. Kaiser California mental health workers are also on strike. for the same problems from 15 August.

Kaiser mental health doctors are pictured here on strike in May for better mental health care outside the Maui Lani clinic in Wailuku. File photo May 2022. PC: Kehaulani Cerizo

According to the union, Kaiser Permanente employs 57 mental health workers, including nine in Maui. With 266,000 subscribers in Hawaii, the NUHW says the report is not enough, “resulting in dangerously long wait times that far exceed clinical standards.”

The health worker released a statement saying, “We take any potential disruption of services very seriously and have plans to ensure that our members and patients continue to receive safe, high-quality care.”

According to Kaiser Permanente’s job update website, the health care worker added 11 new clinical positions in behavioral health to fill in 2022 and has hired 28 doctors in Hawaii since early 2021, eight of which will start working in the next two months.

“The simplistic math of dividing total Kaiser Permanente Hawai’i members by the number of staff represented by NUHW results in inflated workload counts that are inaccurate and misleading,” according to the KP Labor Update.

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The health worker explained why he came to this conclusion:

  • The approximately 60 behavioral health doctors represented by NUHW are just a part of Kaiser Permanente Hawai’i’s mental health care team, along with 15 psychiatrists and additional behavioral health personnel.
  • Not all Kaiser Permanente members seek mental health services.
  • KPHI continues to hire more clinical staff and is currently recruiting 14 open positions for psychologists, LCSW and LMHP.

The union disagrees, saying, “Although Kaiser told state officials in writing that he planned to hire an additional 44 doctors, the number of full-time Kaiser workers providing direct mental health therapy in Hawaii has decreased since November this year. years 51 to 48, and many doctors report that their programs are now fully booked until October. “

Rachel Kaya, a psychologist and Kaiser’s Maui Lani medical office, also disputes the health worker’s argument, saying her next available appointment isn’t until November. “We actually have fewer therapists seeing patients today in Maui than when we went on strike in May due to a severe staff shortage. Kaiser states that she is hiring a lot of people, but in reality she is just trying to fill the positions of dedicated doctors who no longer want to work for Kaiser. “

He is on the roster of striking psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and chemical addiction counselors, who provide care at seven clinics and a call center in Oʻahu, Maui and the Hawaiʻi Islands.

“Kaiser couldn’t be more hypocritical when it comes to mental health care,” said Sal Rosselli, president of the National Union of Healthcare Workers in a press release released earlier this week. “When she gets in trouble for violating mental health access standards, she pledges to empower staff, but then she turns around and asks for cuts that will make her clinics more deficient than ever.”

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The striking group argues that, despite a $ 8.1 billion profit last year, mental health doctors face wage freezes and pension benefit cuts that they say would make recruiting “more difficult, if not impossible. “.

The striking group filed a 57-page complaint last November, citing Kaiser’s internal records, saying patients were waiting months for initial therapy sessions and that only 28% of mental health providers were out of the network. Kaiser were actually accepting new Kaiser patients.

The National Committee for Quality Assurance recently downgraded Kaiser’s accreditation status in Hawaii, placing the HMO under “corrective action.”

However, Kaiser Permanente Hawai’i recently made the Forbes list of 10 Best Employers in Hawaii.

In a statement, a spokesman for Kaiser Permanente Hawai’i said, “It is disappointing that the National Union of Healthcare Professionals has once again called on our dedicated and compassionate mental health professionals to get away from their patients in Hawaii at a time when the Mental health need care is so important. We continue to focus on providing high quality care and urge the union to work with us through the bargaining process to finalize a new agreement. “

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Kaiser Permanente and NUHW, which represents about 60 mental health professionals in Hawaii, are negotiating an initial contract.

“We continue to bargain in good faith and are committed to reaching a fair and equitable deal. We have the utmost respect and gratitude for our mental health professionals and are dedicated to supporting them in their important work, ”according to a statement from Kaiser Permanente Hawai’i.

“People’s lives are at stake,” Andrea Kumura, a licensed clinical social worker at Kaiser’s Waipiʻo medical office, said in a statement. “Kaiser is making us violate our professional ethics by providing care that does not meet the needs of our patients and the proposal Kaiser has on the table would cause people to wait even longer for treatment.”

The provider reports that if appointments or changes to the service are required, they will contact all affected patients.

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