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Mental healthcare workers protest – indefinitely

By Shanila Kabir

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    HONOLULU, Hawaii (KITV) — Dozens of mental healthcare workers are back on strike indefinitely until Kaiser Permanente reaches an agreement with their workers on a set contract and new protocols to attract more mental health professionals.

“Kaiser is woefully and egregiously understaffed. It’s to an extent if you want to get mental health care, you are waiting months to get a first time visit and then another several months to get a second. However, Kaiser is making millions of dollars off of providing health coverage and isn’t,” said Dr. Rachel Kaya, licensed psychologist at Kaiser Maui Lani Medical Office.

Dr. Kaya said she’s worked at Kaiser Maui Lani for more than 12 years and was never offered a contract. She is flying in from Maui early morning to join the first protest outside the Kaiser Honolulu Medical Office.

One of the goals is for Kaiser to commit to hiring a set number of new employees.

“Unfortunately, Kaiser’s approach to hiring more therapists is they want to offer less pay and cut some benefits to attract new hires,” said Andrea Kumura, licensed clinical social worker, Kaiser behavioral health services.

According to a state report, there are 2,700 active licenses for mental health workers. The union says only 57 of them work at Kaiser, serving 266,000 patients.

Kaiser Permanente declined an interview but released a statement that said

“It is disappointing the National Union of Healthcare Workers has again called on our dedicated and compassionate mental health professionals to walk away from their patients in Hawaii at a time when the need for mental health care is so critical. Kaiser Permanente and the NUHW are negotiating an initial contract. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this event may cause.”

The ongoing strikes start Monday and will be rotating locations around the islands.

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