Kaiser mental health workers strike

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SAN DIEGO  -- Dozen’s of San Diego Kaiser Permanente mental health workers walked off the job Monday and joined picket lines across the state.

Dozens of strikers picketed Monday  in front of the Kaiser hospital on Zion Avenue in Grantville. They are demanding the medical giant hire more staff.

“The staffing has just become woefully in adequate,” said drug addiction specialist, Mark Winterman, “our patients are having to wait 6 to 8 weeks.”

Winterman say the problem has been on-going for years and is now compounded by the influx of new patients due to covered California.

“We’re getting hundreds of thousands of new members and their clamoring for services,” Winterman said, “we just don't have the service to give them.”

Striking employees plan to continue their walkout for a week. The psychologists, therapists and social workers say they are going without pay to get their message to the public.

“We feel that everyone knows someone or has family that is in need of mental health care, and we feel that Kaiser should be providing enough staff that we can see our patients on a more frequent basis,” said union representative Jim Clifford.

Patient care is the top priority at Kaiser , and management is continually evaluating staffing levels , according to Kaiser Director of Public Affairs Rodger Dougherty.  “In fact, we’ve increased staffing by 25 percent over the last few years, so we are investing in mental health. We are investing in care.”

“Kaiser says they've hired 25 percent more staff ,but in fact what happened is zero-sum, because the 25 percent has not made up for the attrition that's occurred," said Winterman.

On Tuesday, strikers will picket in front of Kaiser's Point Loma facility. The union says about 6,200 Kaiser mental healthcare workers are striking at Kaiser hospitals around the state.

Kaiser says appropriate measures have been taken to insure patient care is not interrupted during the strike.