In the past four years, staff at Kaiser have been hit with flat rate salaries and unethical superiors in hopes that the low payday amounts would make them up the quality of their mental health care, but now, they have no other alternative than to strike. The president of the union supporting the strike, Sal Roselli, said that their sole goal is to promote better patient care, and many others have come to their aid.
Today, Jan. 12, the strike officially began and will last through the entire week. Along with the initial staff, totaling 65, an additional 700 Kaiser staff from around the area will be joining the cause. Also in attendance for the strike will be around 2,600 other psychologists and other mental health care professionals. With strength in numbers, the strike could become a success story.
The Vice President of the medical institution, John Nelson, had the mental wards’ patients reschedule their appointments as he knew the strike was on its way. Nelson then stated how the upcoming week will be priority one for the patients neglected throughout the strike. The downside to the strike is that while both sides want nothing but the best for the patients, the strike drives a wedge into that mission. It also may mean that Kaiser could be the problem behind why mental care services have not improved.
Roselli commented that the clinicians, from the get go four years ago, had complaints about the ethics their bosses imposed upon them. According to California law, a patient must be seen within 10 days of their request, but Kaiser apparently neglected to adhere to the stipulation. Between then and now, Kaiser got slapped by a $4 million fine by the Department of Managed Health Care for the unpunctual patient care. Class action suits have been filed in great number, which only hurts more when coupled with the heavy critical public forum held in Sonoma County last September.
In response to the allegations and histories being brought forth against them, Nelson said that Kaiser, like many other hospitals, is not at the level that it should. He also said that their mental health staff had increased nearly 25 percent in the last three years, while new patient membership only raised 8 percent. With such vast differences between staff and patients, Nelson feels that the strike is merely an attempt to garner better union contracts. However, it is not just the mental health care staff hitting Kaiser with strikes this month, but also by their 18,000 nurses.
The nurses reported similar allegations against the policies of Kaiser, stating how they restrict both patient admissions and hospital services, and that they discharge some patients too early. The nurses stand firm and their strike on Jan. 21-22 will deeply impact all 86 Kaiser establishments statewide. The nursing staff held a two day strike before, back in November, but the growing erosion of their professionalism is too much.
Kaiser has entered into contract talk with the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Association, and they believe a fair agreement can be achieved. In the meantime, Kaiser still has to deal with the growing staff strike that their mental health staff have hit them with. The hope is that the conflict can resolved quickly for the patients’ sakes.
By Matthew Austin Bowers