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San Diego Supervisors pass resolution backing Kaiser therapists

Kaiser Permanente is under increasing pressure to reverse cuts that limit the amount of time its mental health therapists in Southern California have for  critical patient care duties.

Following in the footsteps of Orange County and Los Angeles, the San Diego Board Supervisors on May 1 passed a resolution “urging” Kaiser to:

Reverse its unilateral cut to Patient Management Time in San Diego County and throughout Kaiser’s Southern California region and provide its therapists in Southern California the same amount of Patient Management Time as its therapists in Northern California currently receive.

The resolution was covered by the San Diego Union Tribune.

Patient Management Time is Kaiser’s term the time its mental health therapists have to perform critical patient care tasks including responding to patient phone calls and emails, create treatment plans, enter notes into patient charts and communicate with social service agencies.

In Northern California, Kaiser therapists, through their ten-week strike in 2022, secured approximately 7 hours per week for these tasks. Expanding Patient Management Time was a top priority for therapists because the lack of sufficient time to get all of their work done was a major contributor to burnout and resignations.

Nevertheless, shortly after Kaiser’s Northern California region agreed to increase Patient Management Time, the HMO’s Southern California region actually reduced it to as few as two hours per week.

The unilateral cut violated the therapists’ contract and has upset local officials, including San Diego Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, who introduced the resolution.

Lawson-Remer said that the issue is personal for her as she used to be a Kaiser patient and switched insurers because she could not get a therapist. 

She said cutting the amount of time therapists have for important patient care duties is bad for therapists and patients. is not the solution to our mental health crisis and does not benefit patients. 

“This approach of cutting hours undermines current patient care and contributes to burn out and our widening spiral of losing quality healthcare professionals,” she said. “This is the wrong solution to a shared problem.”

Community activist Michelle Krug, who spoke during the meeting, said that Kaiser was effectively discriminating against patients in Southern California by not allowing their therapists the same amount of patient care time as their counterparts in Northern California.

“The fact that Kaiser is allowing only two hours for therapists to document all of the patients they see in a week in Southern California but allowing seven hours in Northern California seems discriminatory at best,” Krug said. “Our patients somehow need less documentation, need less healthcare because this obviously affects the quality of the care that a therapist is able to give in terms of being able to know exactly what went on in each session.”

In addition to San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties, numerous elected officials have called on Kaiser to rescind the cuts including Congresswoman Katie Porter, State Senators Dave Min, Josh Newman, and Scott Wiener, and Assemblymembers Sharon Quirk-Silva, Cottie Petrie-Norris, and Avelino Valencia.

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