Former Kaiser therapist on company's staffing shortage: 'a combination of greed and lingering stigma'

Kaiser Permanente behavioral health services are under state investigation after provider complaints and staff resignations, California nonprofit news source Capital & Main reported last week. UPDATE 8/5: Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers are set to begin an open-ended strike Aug. 15 at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California.

Kaiser therapists told Capital & Main that practitioners are overburdened, leading to wait times of six weeks or more. 

Susan Whitney, a former Kaiser therapist, told Capital & Main that Kaiser's staffing shortage is a result of the company's desire to maximize profit and 

According to Capital & Main, California’s department of managed healthcare is conducting a "non-routine survey" to assess the quality and consistency of the company's behavioral health services.

When Capital & Main asked Kaiser about the lack of access in May, Yener Balan, Kaiser’s vice president of behavioral health and specialty services, said, "The challenge we face is that all mental health providers are drawing from the same, limited pool of talent."

Mr. Balan told Capital & Main that Kaiser meets the industry standard of access to initial appointments.

In 2021, San Diego sued the health system, claiming that more than 30 percent of Kaiser's listed therapists weren't actually available to patients; some listed  incorrect contact information; some were no longer in practice; and some were not a part of Kaiser's network. 

Mr. Balan told Capital & Main that Kaiser has put $500,000 into recruiting efforts to fill more than 1,000 open positions.


 UPDATE 8/5:

Members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers are set to begin an open-ended strike Aug. 15 at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California.The union contends that Kaiser has failed to provide real parity for mental healthcare and has rejected proposals to increase staffing and access to care during contract negotiations. "We're serving a strike notice because our patients aren't receiving needed services. We're not willing to be part of a system that disrespects the work we do and prevents us from providing ethical care. Kaiser has no excuse to continue treating mental healthcare as a separate and unequal service, and we're going to keep striking until that changes," Shay Loftus, PhD, a psychologist in Kaiser's Napa/Solano region, said in the union release.  


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