Open letter to Connie Wilson and Gay Westfall

April 22nd, 2014

As clinicians in the Oakland Kaiser Psychiatry Department, we are proud to be standing up for our patients.  We are striking to hold Kaiser accountable to provide the quality care it promises in its Thrive marketing campaign, but rarely delivers. We are striking because:

• We protest the recently implemented block intake system because it is wrong to overbook patients and make them wait around an extra hour or more to be seen.  It is wrong to add additional intakes without making allowances for added returns, making the wait for patients for return appointments even longer. Oakland management told us they were basing this model on Redwood City, where it works so well that six patients committed suicide within a three month period last year.

• We ask for more help in IOP because it is wrong for patients not to have access to IOP when they need it.  We ask for more resources for behavioral medicine because it is wrong to tell a patient with a terminal illness she has to wait three months for a return appointment.

• We ask to keep our current dedicated team for call for the Oakland E.D. because it has been working for years and management’s proposal to have a minimal number of staff covering call for Oakland and Richmond simultaneously is unsafe for both patients and providers.  Management has claimed to be concerned for our Richmond therapists who disdain call, but they have rejected our proposals that would relieve therapists of call but not require someone to cover two sites simultaneously.

• We ask that when we use our earned PTO benefit we not be punished by the odious requirement to “make up” for time on vacation with added intakes upon return.  This diminishes our ability to provide the best service to our patients and is unfair to us as well.

These are our issues.  We asked Oakland management to make a good faith effort to address any of these issues and we would call off our strike.  They refused.

Ms. Wilson and Ms. Westfall, you haven’t been to any of the local bargaining, nor has your informant of the “facts”, Don Mordecai.  In Adult Psychiatry in Oakland, the fact is we have 1.9 less FTEs than we did last May, according to bargaining unit lists provided by Kaiser to the Union.  And we are seeing a surge of new patients because of Obama-care.  According to Kaiser’s own reports, Kaiser has nearly 20,000 new enrollees in Alameda County alone. So if you really care about improving access, use some of your billions in exorbitant profit to hire more staff to cover our Psychiatry clinics in Oakland and throughout California.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for publicizing our strike and bringing the issues to the forefront.  We are confident that our colleagues, who share our work experience, can see through your rhetoric and distortion of facts and will join with us in support of our action.  We are mental health clinicians and we are the Union.  It is our fight to uphold sound, ethical and clinically professional patient care delivery standards. You are welcome visit us on our picket line, unfortunately probably the first of many.

Yours truly,

Oakland NUHW Stewards:

Clem Papazian, LCSW, Oakland Adult Service
Andris Skuja, PhD, MSCP, Oakland Adult Service
Juan Ibarra, LCSW, Oakland Adult Service
Roxie Mayfield, PhD, Oakland Child & Family Service
Beth Remington, LCSW, Oakland CDRP