OAKLAND (CBS SF / BCN) – About 200 Kaiser mental health clinics in Oakland went on strike Monday to demand better care for colored communities, representatives of the National Union of Healthcare Workers said.
Psychologists, social workers, addiction counselors, and marriage and family therapists from Oakland and Richmond were on Monday morning outside Kaiser’s Oakland Hospital at 3600 Broadway.
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At 10:30 a.m., workers were scheduled to march to Kaiser’s headquarters at 1 Kaiser Plaza in Oakland and hold a meeting there at 11:30. The strike ends after the demonstration, organizers said. No strike activity is taking place in Richmond.
“Kaiser treats mental health care as separate and unequal to its medical treatment,” said Sabrina Chaumette, a social worker who is one of only five black mental health clinicians providing care to adult Kaiser patients in Oakland, in a statement. .
“I appreciate that my clinic asks patients if they want to work with therapists who can provide culturally responsive care, but at Kaiser we just do not have the numbers to do so. Because we are so understaffed, my next vacancy is in four months, ”said Chaumette.
Workers also strike because they were promised a paid vacation for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and management withdrew on that promise, union organizers said.
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Kaiser acknowledged there was a miscommunication and apologized after some department employees locally were told Monday would be a paid holiday.
In a survey of 1,500 Kaiser employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, 41% said they have had patients who find it challenging to access or maintain treatment due to a lack of a culturally sensitive provider.
“Kaiser is trying to present itself as an enlightened organization, but it’s not the experience for black and brown therapists or patients,” said Jessica Dominguez, founder and lead clinician at Kaiser Permanente’s La Clinica, a program in Richmond that serves Spanish-speaking residents. in a statement.
“We see an organization that will not even take the slightest step to confront structural racism and that shows no urgency in stopping the continued departure of colored clinicians who can provide all Kaiser patients with culturally competent care,” Dominguez said. .
Kaiser said it is in contract negotiations with the NUHW.
“It is unfortunate that the union is using this important topic as a tactic to try to gain influence in negotiations,” Kaiser Permanente officials said. “It is especially disappointing that they are asking our dedicated and compassionate staff to walk away from patients who need us. Every time we are in contract negotiations with NUHW, they strike, and this time is no different. ”
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