Shaking hands

Kaiser Permanente and the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), which represents approximately 55 of our mental health professionals in Hawaii, are negotiating an initial collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately, NUHW leadership has taken the unproductive action of calling for an open-ended strike.

We greatly value our mental health professionals and the important work they do. As such, we are deeply disappointed that NUHW leadership has rejected several very competitive offers with wage proposals above market for mental health professionals in Hawaii.

Only behavioral health appointments are affected, and Kaiser Permanente facilities are open for normal operations.

Kaiser Permanente continues to reach out to every behavioral health patient whose appointment has been affected by the strike to reschedule or offer another option.

Despite the strike, more than 50% of our dedicated Kaiser Permanente mental health staff on a given day remain on the job caring for members. In addition, our Kaiser Permanente psychiatrists, clinical managers, and other licensed clinicians have stepped in to meet with people needing care.

Kaiser Permanente has also been working diligently to find community providers with new or additional capacity to see our patients. We have contracted and credentialed 65 additional external providers since the strike began and have several dozen existing contracted providers opening additional appointments for Kaiser Permanente members. In addition, we have contracts with six large national therapy vendors to expand our capacity to refer patients externally. Currently, there are more than 100 Kaiser Permanente contracted mental health providers accepting new patients.

NUHW leadership continues to exploit the national and local mental health worker shortage, using their old-fashioned corporate campaign tactics of filing complaints with regulators, elected officials and media, to create pressure at the bargaining table.

We hope the union will consider bargaining not as a conflict to win or lose, but as a chance to end the disruption that has occurred for our members and patients over the past many weeks and start to move towards finding solutions and working collaboratively, addressing the real challenges in mental health care in Hawaii.

Please read information below that addresses the inaccurate claims of NUHW.

 

Setting the record straight

Addressing NUHW's false claims about Kaiser Permanente contract bargaining.

 

Staffing and Hiring

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente is not doing enough to solve the Behavioral Health understaffing issue.

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Fact

Despite a significant shortage of mental health workers here and nationally, Kaiser Permanente has made significant investments to expand behavioral health capacity in Hawaii.

In addition to our focus on hiring and retention, Kaiser Permanente has been working diligently to find community providers with new or additional capacity to see our patients. We have contracted and credentialed more than 65 additional external providers since the strike began and have several dozen existing contracted providers opening additional appointments for Kaiser Permanente members. Currently there are approximately 100 Kaiser Permanente contracted mental health providers accepting new patients.


Therapists Taking New Patients

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NUHW Claim

Very few Kaiser Permanente contracted therapists are taking new patients.

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Fact

As of January 2023, there are more than 100 Kaiser Permanente contracted providers were accepting new patients. This is a fluid number, and we have a team in frequent contact with all active community providers to assess availability and push for additional appointment access for members.


Current Mental Health Appointments

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii is cancelling all mental health appointments.

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Fact

Despite the strike, about half of our dedicated Kaiser Permanente mental health staff scheduled on a given day are on the job caring for members. In addition, our Kaiser Permanente psychiatrists, clinical managers, and other licensed clinicians have stepped in to meet with people needing care.

We have also added more than 65 community providers since the beginning of the strike and dozens of existing providers have increased the number of Kaiser Permanente patients they see to help meet the needs of our members.

Additionally, we have launched contracts with six large national therapy vendors to expand our capacity to refer patients externally.


Advocating for Mental Health Access

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NUHW Claim

NUHW is striking to advocate for better access to mental health services.

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Fact

Unfortunately, NUHW has a standard strategy that it uses in bargaining on the mainland, including strikes, and making unsubstantiated claims to try to create undue concern about access to mental health care services.

While NUHW claims to be advocating for improved mental health care, a number of NUHW activists have been contacting community therapists encouraging them not to see Kaiser Permanente patients during the strike. We were dismayed by these actions. Interfering with needed patient care should not be a bargaining strategy.


Turnover Rate

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente has a high turnover rate as clinicians leave due to worsening working conditions.

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Fact

In 2021, the voluntary turnover rate for our represented mental health employees was 11.5% in the Hawaii Market. While this is higher than we would like, it is far below the national health care worker attrition rate of 18.9%*. Retaining our talented employees is critical to meeting the growing demand for mental health care, and we are focused on working with our clinicians to address this challenge.

*Source Saratoga Benchmarking Data https://www.pwc.com/us/en/products/saratoga.html


Drawn Out Contract Negotiations

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente has been dragging out the process of negotiating a new contract with NUHW.

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Fact

Behavioral Health workers at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii first organized under NUHW in September 2018. NUHW declined all earlier attempts to schedule bargaining sessions. Negotiations finally started in January of 2020.

We are committed to continue bargaining in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.


Timely Access

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente forces patients to wait weeks, even months for appointments.

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Fact

Recognizing every person’s needs are unique, our clinicians work with each patient to independently develop a care plan that is clinically appropriate and tailored specifically for them.

When appointments are not readily available, we have an escalation process in place to support and triage patients with urgent needs to the appropriate care.

We have also added more than 65 community providers since the beginning of the strike and dozens of existing providers have increased the number of Kaiser Permanente patients they see to help meet the needs of our members.

Additionally, we have launched contracts with six large national therapy vendors to expand our capacity to refer patients externally. Kaiser Permanente’s integrated system provides a safety net for patients, offering added support to help members in crisis navigate to the care they need. Patients outside of an integrated system must frequently call multiple individual providers when seeking care.


Accreditation

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente is at risk of losing accreditation from the National Committee on Quality Assurance (NCQA)

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Fact

Kaiser Permanente Hawaii performed well on its recent routine NCQA accreditation survey (completed May 2022), and successfully achieved full 3-year NCQA accreditation status through May 11, 2025 for all applicable services.


Number Of Patients Per Provider

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NUHW Claim

The approximately 55 NUHW-represented employees must care for all 260,000+ Kaiser Permanente Hawaii members.

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Fact

The simplistic math of dividing Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s total membership by NUHW-represented staff results in inflated caseload counts that are inaccurate and misleading for several reasons.

  • Fewer than 8% of Kaiser Permanente Hawaii’s 260,000+ members seek mental health services in a given year based on our internal data from 2020 and 2021.
  • The approximately 55 mental health clinicians represented by NUHW are just one part of our Kaiser Permanente Hawaii mental health care team, along with psychiatrists and additional behavioral health care staff.
  • More than half of our behavioral health patients receive their care from practitioners such as our contracted mental health providers in the community, who are not involved with the strike.
  • We continue to hire more clinical staff and are currently recruiting for 14 open positions for psychologists, LCSWs, and LMHP.

Workload And Burnout

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NUHW Claim

Therapists maintain unsustainable workloads under tremendous circumstances, which has led to employee burnout and clinicians leaving for other jobs.

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Fact

The pandemic has challenged our front-line care teams, including nurses, health care workers, physicians, and of course our mental health clinicians. We have the greatest respect and gratitude for our mental health professionals, and we are dedicated to supporting them in their important work.

Our therapists are scheduled for an average of 6 to 7 appointments per day. Our model provides our full-time therapists room to focus almost solely on their patients. In addition, we have an administrative structure in place to ensure an appropriate amount of preparation time, as well as time to support ongoing education.


Financial Issues On The Table

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente Hawaiiʻs current offer on the table proposes a wage freeze for 60% of employees and benefit cuts.

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Fact

Kaiser Permanente provides market competitive wages and benefits to attract and retain top-quality employees.

Wages and benefits for represented employees are negotiated at the bargaining table. We are committed to continuing bargaining in good faith to reach a mutually beneficial contract and we ask NUHW to join us to resolve our differences.


KP Finance

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NUHW Claim

Kaiser Permanente only cares about profits

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Fact

Despite these challenging times, we are committed to remaining an employer of choice for mental health professionals by continuing to offer our employees market-leading wages and benefits. However we, like every other health care provider, cannot continue to allow costs to grow beyond what our members can afford.