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Some Kaiser Health Care Employees Begin 5-Day Strike For More Staffing

Susan Murphy/KPBS

Mental health professionals at Kaiser Permanente began a 5-day strike yesterday (Monday), calling for more staffing and shorter wait times.  KVCR's Benjamin Purper reports.

Outside the Kaiser building in Fontana, mental health professionals are chanting and holding signs that say “Kaiser, Don’t Deny My Patients Mental Health Care.”

It’s the first day of a five-day long strike. Over 4,000 mental health workers across California are demanding Kaiser increase their staffing to provide shorter wait times for clients.

Vanessa Carillo is a psych social worker at the Fontana clinic. She says that after patients’ initial intake appointment, they have to wait months to actually get care.

“So you come in, you give us your whole life story, what you're going through, and then you sit there and you have to watch their faces in despair because now you have to wait another two months to see me. So that's what we're fighting for, that's why we're here. Because we need Kaiser to staff up, we need more clinicians.”

The strike was organized by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, and Carrillo says it’s attracted a broad coalition of healthcare professionals.

“That's why we have therapists, psychologists, medical social workers, we also have health educators, dieticians, nutritionists supporting us, because this is the cause we're fighting for. Mental health is becoming to become a civil movement and we need to advocate for ourselves but especially for our patients.”

Kaiser said in a statement, "The union's principal demands at the bargaining table have not been about improving care and access. Rather, in addition to seeking even higher wages and benefits, the union is demanding changes to performance standards that would reduce, not increase, the availability of mental health care for our patients." 

The union plans to hold similar strikes at locations in Riverside and Ontario this week.

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