Opposition growing to Kaiser’s patient care takeaways

NewsJuly 27, 2023

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NUHW members and our allies are fighting back against Kaiser Permanente’s attempt to cut time for critical patient care duties in Southern California.

In recent months, Kaiser threatened to cut in half the amount of time mental health therapists get to respond to patient emails and voicemails, tailor treatment plans, communicate with social service agencies, consult with colleagues on clinical questions, and chart appointments.

In a majority of service areas, Kaiser is threatening to cut time for these critical tasks from four hours per week to as little as two hours per week for therapists who don’t meet Kaiser’s stringent productivity measures. By contrast, Kaiser clinicians in Northern California get approximately seven hours per week for these tasks, as required under the union contract they won following a 10-week strike last year.

Kaiser therapists have signed petitions opposing any reduction in time for critical patient care duties and NUHW has filed grievances aimed at stopping Kaiser from taking unilateral action after it failed to secure the cuts during collective bargaining last year.

Meanwhile, elected officials are starting to chime in, making it clear to Kaiser that they won’t stand for their constituents receiving a lower standard of care than Kaiser patients in Northern California.

In a recent letter to Kaiser management, Congresswoman Katie Porter wrote:

“This proposed reduction would leave Southern California therapists with significantly less time to perform critical patient care tasks compared to their counterparts in Northern California. Psychologists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, and other counselors are already burdened with limited (Patient Management Time). This proposed reduction would also impede their professional integrity and ability to sufficiently address patients’ mental health. In addition, we’ve heard serious concerns that the proposed PMT reduction will result in therapists departing (Kaiser), leaving patients waiting even longer for much needed care…

(The Southern California Permanente Medical Group) is among the largest private providers of mental healthcare in Southern California, and these issues raise credible concerns as to the quality and legality of the services being provided. The most sustainable approach to providing excellent healthcare and complying with SB 221 is to increase staffing rather than reducing (Patient Management Time), which would have detrimental effects on quality of care and therapist retention. We believe (Kaiser) can and should help lead the way on improving mental healthcare. We strongly encourage you to consider following the lead of your counterparts in Northern California by expanding PMT and responding to therapist concerns by increasing staffing, which will result in improved mental healthcare for (Kaiser) members. Thank you for your full and fair consideration of this matter.”

The letter was also signed by State Senators Scott Wiener and Josh Newman.