Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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David Mallon

David Mallon has advanced degrees in clinical social work and psychology. He has worked as a psychiatric social worker at Kaiser for over 12 years.

May 17th, 2011 4:48 PM

One Day in May

Dear Reader: The reason we are striking on May 18 begins as a story:

Once upon a time, long, long ago there a wonderful place to work called Kaiser.

Kaiser health care members came to see their doctors and therapists and they seemed to get better. It was nice. Health care providers and managers worked so well together.

I came to work for Kaiser, way back when, and thought there wasn't anything we couldn't accomplish because the managers and the providers were in this thing called a partnership where we solved problems. Together. It was neat.

And did we have problems! Like most of the time it took months to get seen in the first place. And then when you were finally seen, the nice therapist couldn't see you again for another couple of months. But it was still a nice place to do therapy because despite being seen - or not - the patients just seem to get better because they didn't call anymore. So everyone was happy. Make them wait and they just get better. We called it "neglect" therapy. Ha, ha, ha…

After a while, it began to dawn on us that the health care members weren't really getting better. We were just putting them in the "parking lot" to wait. And wait. And wait... And our patients were just giving up.

We complained to our managers and they tried all kinds of things but the remedies the managers tried didn't work. Then they asked us, the therapists, what Kaiser should do. We were partners, after all. We made some suggestions like hire more staff but the big bosses on high at headquarters - who never seem to have heard of the partnership - said, "demonstrate the need" as if the length of time it took a health care member to get an appointment wasn't demonstration enough.!

So, we put our thinking caps on again, and tightened our belts, and - Lo, and Behold! - we non-managers were able to improve how often patients saw their therapists a lot. A whole lot. But we knew that if we didn't soon get more staff, and better resources, and more space to see our patients, then the sacrifices we were making would vanish. And that is what happened. The long wait times came back again.

In response, the big bosses at headquarters simply replied "Do More With Less" and "Cut More" like time spent on the phone with our patients, meetings to plan better treatment, making sure that when our patients go into the hospital that their care is coordinated with their therapists, writing letters for our patients, and so on. When we saw that these demands from the big bosses translated into $10,000,000 a day in Kaiser profits and obscenely high salaries for these same big bosses instead of quality health care, we said “NO.” No, no, and more no.

This is why we are striking. We want to have a voice in patient care. A meaningful and powerful and collaborative voice that translates into the quality patient care that is the KP Promise. We are striking because we want Kaiser to be true to the vision of the past providers, the current providers, and all the health plan members who have come to expect the best.

So tonight the striking providers will be gathering their picket signs for an early morning, May 18th, start. The strike will last for 24 hours. We will present our case for quality patient care to Kaiser and to the world.

Stay tuned for moment-to-moment coverage of this strike for Quality Patient Care. As the day unfolds we will bring you regular news from the picket line. It’s sure to be interesting and exciting!

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