Day 1: Kaiser mental health strike

NewsAugust 15, 2022

Our strike got off to a great start today, with strong and spirited picket lines in San Francisco, San Jose, Fresno, and Sacramento.

News media was out in force — television, radio, and print and web outlets covered the action and interviewed clinicians as well as patients.

Kaiser officials refused to answer questions from reporters. They released a statement criticizing us for demanding more Indirect Patient Care time and a video of Sameer Asware, associate medical director overseeing mental health for The Permanente Medical Group, claiming he was “outraged” by our strike, rather than delayed care and the conditions that have resulted in so many clinicians leaving Kaiser.

You can see photos below and a roundup of press coverage here and you can see NUHW’s full-page ad, which ran today in Northern California’s larger newspapers, here.

Not only did Kaiser patients demonstrate support for our strike by speaking to reporters, 10 leading healthcare advocacy organizations signed a letter urging Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) Director Mary Watanabe “to ensure” that Kaiser members “have access to services during” our strike. Among the organizations signing the letter were the Kennedy Forum, Mental Health America of California, Steinberg institute, California Association of marriage and Family Therapists, California Psychological Association, and the California State Association of Psychiatrists.

The DMHC today issued a press release expressing in no uncertain terms that Kaiser is responsible for providing care to patients during the strike.

“The law requires health plans to provide enrollees with medically necessary care within timely access and clinical standards at all times, which includes during an employee strike,” DMHC Director Mary Watanabe said. “I encourage any Kaiser enrollee experiencing issues with receiving appropriate access to care to contact Kaiser directly, or to contact the DMHC Help Center for further assistance.”

Tuesday’s picket lines will be outside medical centers in Fresno, Modesto, Oakland, Sacramento, Santa Clara, and Santa Rosa. You can see the full list of scheduled picket lines through August 26 here.

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