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Kaiser Permanente Therapists Hold One-Day Strike in San Francisco Over Staffing Shortages

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Kaiser Permanente staff protested outside their clinic in San Francisco, chanting, “What’s this about? Patient care!” on Wednesday, July 10, 2019.  (Laura Klivans/KQED)

Kaiser Permanente therapists held a one-day strike on Wednesday to protest what they said were conditions that make it difficult for children and adults in San Francisco to access mental health care services, including staffing shortages and weeks-long waits for appointments.

Chanting “What’s this about? Patient care!” a few dozen people, including psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers, protested outside Kaiser’s mental health clinic on Geary Boulevard— the health system's only one in San Francisco. Several city supervisors attended, including board president Norman Yee.

“Our clinics are suffering. We are overworked. We are understaffed. And mental health is in a crisis time, certainly here in this clinic and certainly in the Kaiser mental health clinics all over California,” said James Beauford, who has worked as a clinical psychologist at the Kaiser clinic for 23 years.

“We've written letters to management. We've petitioned. We've written grievances. Kaiser is not listening. This is a last resort. Our clinic is dying,” Beauford added.

More Coverage of Mental Health Care

Kaiser has been in bargaining talks with the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which represents these Kaiser workers, for over a year, said Ron Groepper, senior vice president at Kaiser Permanente Greater San Francisco.

Groepper said Kaiser has been working on ways to meet growing demand for mental health services and has committed $50 million to support increasing the number of people entering and remaining in the mental health profession. He also said Kaiser expects to add more than 60 new offices for mental health providers in Northern California and denied the union’s assertion that group therapy sessions were overcrowded.

James Beauford is a clinical psychologist who has worked at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center for 23 years. He said his clinic is “significantly understaffed.”
James Beauford is a clinical psychologist who has worked at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center for 23 years. He said his clinic is “significantly understaffed.” (Laura Klivans/KQED)

“Meeting the increased demand for mental health services is a national challenge that faces all health care providers, not just Kaiser Permanente,” Groepper said in a statement.

In June, the union filed a complaint with the California Department of Managed Health Care seeking an investigation into understaffing at the San Francisco clinic.


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