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Mental Health Workers Strike Over Inability To See Patients

California mental health workers began a weeklong strike against Kaiser Healthcare System on Monday over what they claim are unfair labor practices.

The National Union for Healthcare Workers is promoting the strike, which will affect 35 locations and 65 picket lines across the state and is expected to end Jan. 19.

“We are encouraging everybody not to stay out all seven days,” Kaiser spokesman, John Nelson, told the San Francisco Business Times.”We are asking employees to stay at work — and let us know if they plan to strike.”

The union argues that the strike was prompted by Kaiser’s failure to staff its psychiatry departments and other areas with enough workers to provide timely, quality health care at their Oakland based facility. Additionally, the union has been unable to agree on a new contract with Kaiser since they split from the Service Employees International Union back in 2009.

“We want Kaiser to increase staffing so we can see patients on a more frequent basis,” psychiatric therapist Jim Clifford told Fox 5 News.

The union claims they have been trying for the past four years to draw attention to lengthy appointment delays at Kaiser. In one such incident in 2013, Kaiser was fined $4 million by the California Department of Managed Health Care for making patients wait for weeks at a time.

Though Kaiser at first tried to appeal the fine, they later dropped the appeal in September 2014 and agreed to pay the $4 million.

The union and Kaiser both say the strike is not expected to affect patient care at any Kaiser facilities.

Rodger Dougherty, another Kaiser spokesman, noted to Fox 5 News, “We have all the shifts covered. The emergency and urgent care needs of our behavioral health members will be covered this week without disruption. If you need any care, you will receive it this week.”

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