What happens when health workers walkout on their hospital duties? This is something that a lot of patients are going to experience as thousands of Kaiser mental health workers left their stations on Monday, as they begin their nationwide strike.
The striking health personnel include therapists, psychologists, and social workers like Ann Amato. They are picketing the health facilities and are planning to continue for the week.
“They pay their executives very well, they are just not choosing to invest in mental health care,” she said.
She said that the waiting rooms and hallways are always full of patients at Kaiser Permanente.
“We’ve been chronically understaffed for a long time and we’re worried about our patients getting the care they need,” she said.
Amato was one of those front-line therapist until she transferred job this time doing group work. She said that she had been a front-line therapist for years but it was really exhausting
“They will have packed schedules and sometimes have people jammed into their lunch hour or see them after hours,” she said.
According to her that therapists and psychologists are over worked doing 2 hours over time every day. The facility is understaffed and that will won’t be to the benefit of the patients. Follow ups need to be done within days but what happens because of too many patients and less staff available to handle them, follow up schedules are stretched for weeks which has devastating effects on patients.
“We’ve had people fall through the cracks; we’ve had people fall out of treatment because they just can’t be seen,” she said.
However hospital officials don’t see it that way. John Nelson, vice president of government relations with Kaiser Permanente, explained that they have hired more therapists increasing the number in the last three years to 25 percent.
“We have in place the staff needed to meet our patients’ needs in a timely way and provide them the high-quality care we need,” he said.
Amato said that they haven’t seen those new therapists. She added the more patient one therapist handles the less time they spend with each one.
“Half the time the patient doesn’t get to talk about what they want to talk about,” she said.
A Kaiser patient told CBS13 she had to reschedule her therapy session six months later, because there was no way they could fit her in earlier than that.