Kaiser mental health workers called off a strike set to begin Tuesday, following progress in negotiations with the Oakland health system.
Around 4,000 psychologists, therapists and social workers had planned to strike due to what they described as long wait times for patients seeking appointments for mental health care. The National Union of Healthcare Workers and Kaiser are negotiating a new contract after the previous agreement expired in September, and employees went on strike in December over similar wait-time concerns.
“We are pleased that the NUHW strike has been called off; it was the responsible thing to do, Kaiser said. “We credit this decision to our therapists, who have been providing leadership at the table and representing the voice of our employees in all these discussions.”
The health system has about 12 million patients, including 4 million in Northern California.
“Kaiser’s last offer is better than before our members authorized an open-ended strike last month,” NUHW president Sal Rosselli said in a statement. “Kaiser has finally acknowledged to its clinicians that its system is in crisis. That progress is reflected in its latest proposals, which include the framework for a six-month collaborative process to reform Kaiser’s system with everything open for discussion, including in-sourcing the tens of thousands of patients currently forced to find non-Kaiser therapists.”
Kaiser said that it had engaged with NUHW over the weekend through a mutual facilitator, and had addressed the major issues that were brought up by employees.
Rosselli said that the union feels a settlement is within reach, but if Kaiser doesn’t come back to the negotiating table, it will recommend its members vote down Kaiser’s current offer.
Kaiser was fined $4 million by the California Department of Managed Health Care in 2013 for inadequate patient access to mental health services. The agency criticized Kaiser again in 2017 for the long wait times for treatment but did not issue a fine.
Rallies in support of adequate mental health services for all are planned for Wednesday at noon outside the Capitol in Sacramento and the Ronald Reagan State Building in Los Angeles, according to the NUHW.
Chronicle staff writer Catherine Ho contributed to this report.
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