Press Release: Kaiser mental health clinicians to hold vigils honoring patients who struggle to access care

August 16th, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 16, 2019
Contact: Matthew Artz, 510-435-8035, martz@nuhw.org

Hundreds of psychologists, therapists, social workers and psychiatric nurses will gather over several days outside Kaiser hospitals beginning Saturday.

Los Angeles – Mental health therapists will hold hour-long vigils outside Kaiser facilities across Southern California starting Saturday to draw attention to the struggles faced by their patients, who are needlessly suffering while waiting weeks, and in many cases months to get their care they need.

Community allies will join clinicians, who will read stories from patients who were denied timely care by Kaiser.

The vigils will begin Saturday Fontana and Baldwin Park, continue Sunday in Riverside. The last vigil is scheduled for Aug. 22 in Los Angeles. See below for a full list of dates and times.

“Kaiser is making our patients wait longer than ever for therapy appointments,” said Lilian Honanian, a Kaiser therapist. “It’s agonizing to have to tell a patient after a good session that my next available appointment isn’t for another two months.”

Kaiser’s nearly 4,000 mental health clinicians in California, represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have been without a contract since last September. Clinicians in Southern California presented a new settlement proposal this week that would establish crisis services at every Kaiser clinic, include worker participation to ensure that new hires are placed in the most understaffed clinics and provide clinicians more time to perform important patient care duties including responding to patient emails, communicating with social service agencies and collaborating to help best care for challenging patients. Management has not yet responded to the proposal.

Kaiser, which has been fined and repeatedly cited for failing to provide timely access to mental health care, has the financial resources to implement the improvements sought by clinicians. Last week, the HMO reported a $2 billion net profit in the second quarter of this year, following a $3.2 billion net profit in the first quarter.

While Kaiser remains highly profitable, patients are having even more difficulty accessing mental health care services as staffing has not kept up with demand. Seventy-one percent of Kaiser clinicians reported that wait times for treatment appointments have grown longer over the past two years, according to a union survey conducted earlier this year. More than three-quarters of clinicians responded that that every day they must schedule their patients’ return appointments further into the future than is clinically appropriate.

The vigils are the most recent action by Kaiser mental health workers, who went on strike for five days in December to protest long wait times for patients at Kaiser clinics. In April, clinicians held a one-day strike at the Pasadena clinic where wait times for appointments now exceed three months.

Here is the full schedule of vigils:

August 17

Baldwin Park
11am to noon
Baldwin Park Medical Center
1011 Baldwin Park Blvd.

Fontana
8am to 9am
Fontana Medical Center
17046 Marygold Ave.

San Diego
Noon to 1pm
San Diego Medical Center
9455 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

August 18

Riverside
9am to 10am
Riverside Medical Center
10800 Magnolia Ave.

August 20

Los Angeles
Noon to 1pm
Los Angeles Medical Center
4867 Sunset Blvd.

August 21

Bakersfield
Noon to 1pm
Bakersfield Medical Center
4900 California Ave.

August 22

Los Angeles
7pm to 8:30pm
West Los Angeles Medical Center
6041 Cadillac Ave.