Clinicians take patient care fight to Kaiser in Southern California

April 30th, 2019

NUHW-represented mental health clinicians turned up the pressure on Kaiser Permanente this month to settle a contract that will treat them and their patients fairly.

On April 8, several dozen clinicians staged an informational picket outside Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center that was covered by both English and Spanish language news outlets. Two weeks later, clinicians held a one-day strike at Kaiser’s clinic in Pasadena where wait times are among the worst in the Kaiser system.

“It’s extremely disheartening to sit there and tell someone you can’t see them,” Tanya Veluz, a therapist, told USC Annenberg Media. “And you watch them not getting better. That’s the reason we want to do this, we want to see people getting better.”

The clinic’s nearly two dozen therapists went on strike after Kaiser wouldn’t agree to increase staffing. Wait times for appointments have roughly doubled in recent years as staffing has not kept up with growing demand for mental health services.

“The patients I see this week can’t see me again until August,” said Diana Little, a therapist at the Kaiser Pasadena clinic. “This is abandonment. Our patients are being put in harm’s way, and Kaiser is refusing to work with us to fix the problem.”

Appointment wait times at many Kaiser clinics range from one to two months, but now exceed three months in Pasadena. A recent survey of therapists at the clinic found that none of them had available appointments for returning patients during the next two months. Access to care at the clinic has deteriorated to such a degree that just before the strike, therapists filed a complaint asking for an investigation by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences into the facility and its administrator for failing to improve access to care.