Kaiser clinicians conduct one-day strike in San Francisco
The challenges we face in fixing Kaiser’s mental health system were illustrated in San Francisco, where clinicians held a one-day strike July 10 to protest severe understaffing that has resulted in 70 percent of group therapy programs being cancelled and children having to wait four to six weeks for their first face-to-face appointment. Kaiser has just one part-time child eating disorder specialist for the entire city.
“I’m just not able to give these kids the full care they need,” said Sarah Phillips, the clinic’s eating disorder specialist who is resigning because of her disappointment with management’s refusal to respond to chronic understaffing.
During the strike, clinicians were joined by patients, elected officials, and advocacy groups including Mental Health America. Several members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors addressed NUHW members, and called on Kaiser to honor the board’s unanimous resolution earlier this year calling on Kaiser to increase staffing and reduce patient wait times.
The strike was covered by many news outlets, including the San Francisco Examiner, KALW, KPFA, KQED, ABC7, and the San Francisco Business Times. Chaya Rivka Mayerson, a steward at the clinic, was interviewed in studio by KTVU, the Bay Area’s local Fox affiliate.
“I’ve never worked in a clinic like this where I have to apologize to my patients for the lack of available services,” Mayerson, a child psychologist, said before the strike. “My co-workers have been fighting for so long to create awareness about the struggles our patients face, but it seems like Kaiser management doesn’t care about these children.”
For over a year, mental health clinicians at the San Francisco clinic have filed grievances against Kaiser and written letters to managers urging them to take action to improve care. Prior to authorizing a one-day strike, the workers called on Kaiser to boost staffing and bolster its eating disorder program, but Kaiser ignored their request. Last month, NUHW filed a complaint with the California Department of Managed Health Care demanding an investigation into understaffing at the San Francisco clinic.