Mental Health Workers vs. Kaiser Permanente

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Mental Health care workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California are on strike this week. Why? According to The National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), Kaiser does not properly staff their hospitals to provide the care patients need. There are reports of many patients not being able to get follow up appointments for months. Anyone with a mental illness or that needs treatment knows that delays in treatment puts recovery, in jeopardy. As a person who has been in therapy, the key for me was the weekly appointments. As a person who has a loved one with a serious mental illness, it is necessary that she able to see her doctors once a month, minimum. The strike is expected to last one week; it began on Monday January 12, 2015. Read more from the President of NUHW on why workers are striking here.

Kaiser Permanente is not-for-profit and has one of the country’s largest health care plans. There are 9.5 million members, and they have headquarters in Oakland, CA. This is not the first time the waiting periods for appointments has been brought to light, last year Kaiser was hit with a $4 million fine. While there are several contributing factors that lead up to the fine, the primary claim was that “Kaiser was likely violating state and federal mental health parity laws.” (Mental health parity laws basically state that mental health should be covered the same as physical health )Read more on this from The Sacramento Bee here.

What does Kaiser Permanente have to say? According to the Kaiser website, “The NUHW represents fewer than 5,000 of Kaiser Permanente’s 175,000 employees.” John Nelson, vice president of government relations for Kaiser, had said that the number of therapists has been increased by 25% while the enrollment has increased by 8%. In the same article, which can be read here, Nelson thinks the strike is a barging strategy, and “not a productive one.” After attempts between the union and Kaiser broke down again, Kaiser was notified of the strike on December 31, 2014.

Please share your thought on these events! Do you support the workers or the health care facility?

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