NUHW-represented clinicians at Kaiser present solutions to the HMO’s mental health crisis

July 30th, 2019

Kaiser Permanente psychologists, therapists, and social workers in Northern California and Southern California this month presented management comprehensive proposals for settlement. Unlike Kaiser’s most recent contract proposals, which clinicians overwhelmingly rejected, our proposals would provide immediate relief for patients struggling to access care by mandating that Kaiser significantly boost staffing over the next year.

The contract proposals are rooted in three core principles:

1) Kaiser must immediately boost staffing to end long wait times for appointments, and it must work with clinicians to allocate those staffing resources appropriately. We proposed that Kaiser hire 300 new full-time clinicians statewide, which Kaiser publicly claimed it would do once it became clear that clinicians were rejecting their contract proposal that did not significantly increase staffing. However, to hold Kaiser accountable and ensure that patients receive the maximum benefit, our proposal requires that Kaiser hire the 300 new clinicians within one year after ratification of the contract and work with us to determine how and where these new clinicians would be deployed, including job duties and assignments.

2) Clinicians must have more time to do all of their patient care duties, not just appointments. Currently, many clinicians are so overbooked, they don’t have time for charting, communicating with patients by phone or email, following up with social service agencies, and consulting with each other over how to best care for patients. This is one of the biggest reasons why clinicians leave Kaiser, further exacerbating the understaffing crisis.

3) Every patient in crisis must be able to immediate receive care. It is common for patients suffering a mental health crisis to wait hours at clinics hoping to be seen. Too often these patients don’t get care and end up being hospitalized. That’s why clinicians have proposed that every Kaiser clinic have a staffing plan in place to provide crisis services without making clinicians cancel appointments with patients who have been waiting months for to be seen.

These are common sense solutions that Kaiser, which has posted a $6.6 billion profit over the last two years, can easily afford to implement.