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Kaiser Permanente mental health workers set to strike in Santa Rosa

Mental health workers from Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa medical center will join thousands of Kaiser’s union workers picketing across the state today. The strikes are set to last through Friday.

Roughly 4,000 psychologists, therapists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and other Kaiser medical professionals represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers are hoping to draw attention to what they call a critical staff shortage and unequal benefits.

As a result, mental health care appointments during the week may be canceled, but the union’s president said the strike is in the long-term best interest of patients who have to wait a month or more for follow-up mental health appointments due to low staffing levels.

“They’ve canceled appointments for these five days, but there’s a critical situation every day of the year,” Sal Rosselli, the union’s president, said Sunday.

Rosselli said Kaiser needs to hire hundreds more clinicians to address what he called an “access crisis” for patients.

A Kaiser spokesperson characterized the strike as “unfortunate” and “unnecessary.”

“We believe that this strike is a bargaining tactic. it’s not about access, it’s not about better care,” Michelle Gaskill-Hames, Kaiser’s chief nurse executive said.

“It is really about them pushing for higher wages,” she said, claiming Kaiser’s mental health workers’ total compensations are among the highest in the state.

Kaiser said its medical centers and medical offices are scheduled to remain open during the strike.

Press Democrat Staff Writer Alexandria Bordas contributed to this report.

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