Kaiser workers upset over ‘Thrive City’ plans

Bay Area

Kaiser Permanente is receiving some backlash on Sunday from mental health therapists who say the company has its priorities mixed up.

Last month, Kaiser and the Warriors announced a new partnership and newly obtained documents show just how much the health care company is willing to invest in it.

When it opens this fall, the 11-acre area surrounding the Warriors new home will be called Thrive City. With Warriors and Kaiser leadership calling it a community gathering space providing health programs and a farmer’s market but Kaiser caregivers say the nearly $300-million that the healthcare company plans to invest in the program should actually be going to patient care.

“My patients aren’t thriving,” Mickey Fitzpatrick said.

Clinical psychologist Mickey Fitzpatrick has worked for Kaiser for nearly eight years and says the health care company’s mental health clinics are understaffed and under-resourced.

“I have patients that are acutely suicidal, and I have to sit there and apologize to them every session and say I’m sorry but I can’t see you again for another six weeks,” Fitzpatrick said.

KRON4 obtained documents through the National Union of Healthcare Workers that show during a finance meeting in Dec. 2016, Kaiser voted on a partnership plan with the Warriors for an amount not to exceed $295-million.

This, coupled with the company’s new $900-million corporate headquarters planned for Oakland has the union frustrated.

“Both those things seem like a really inappropriate and regrettable and insulting way to spend our patient’s dollars,” Fitzpatrick said.

Requests for comment from Kaiser were not returned Sunday.

Fitzpatrick says the union has brought these issues to them before, but he feels the health care company is more concerned with its public image than the care it’s actually providing.

“They go to great effort to present this image of being the industry leader and employer choice in the provision of psychotherapy, but they don’t go beyond the surface of that image,” Fitzpatrick said.

Kaiser Permanente has released the following statement on behalf of John Nelson, Vice President of Communications: 

Our engagement with the Warriors is a unique arrangement between our two organizations that are both deeply committed to improving the health of the community, and both deeply committed to supporting the Bay Area. Our 20-year engagement includes several important components, and builds on our long-standing relationship with the Warriors, and features new and innovative ways to benefit our community, and especially those in underserved populations. It is not a typical sports sponsorship agreement, and even the marketing and business components to this agreement focus on promoting health and supporting the community.

The dollar amount given to the Chronicle by NUHW represented the not-to-exceed, potential cost of a 20-year long community health and business engagement with the Warriors. It included optional components which may or may not be ultimately put in place, and does not represent the final terms of the agreement. Of that total potential, the costs associated with Thrive City would be about $2.5 million a year.

Thrive City will be a community gathering space that provides a slate of year-round health and wellness programming and local events such as walks and marathons, and Get Fit clinics, yoga sessions, farmer’s markets, health screenings, flu clinics, ice skating and much more. Through this unique venue, we are investing in reaching our members and the community in places where they live, learn, work and play, while reinforcing our commitment to the communities we serve – this is part of our mission as a nonprofit organization. Thrive City is a destination for promoting total health, aligned with the needs of the community.

This builds on our joint announcement earlier this year of Generation Thrive, an innovative project that aims to lift up at-risk youth in the community. Generation Thrive, which will be headquartered out of the Warriors current practice facility in Oakland, will focus efforts in three key areas: educational equity, college and career readiness, and health and wellness. Generation Thrive will also have a satellite office located at Thrive City. We believe that everyone should have access to great health care and the information and tools they need to stay healthy. Our partnership with the Warriors is part of this work of increasing public awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Kaiser Permanente does not receive luxury box seats as part of our agreement with the Warriors, in fact, we have a strict policy around complimentary tickets to sporting events: any game tickets provided by the Warriors must be used to promote community benefit or for narrowly defined business purposes. Any personal use of tickets by Kaiser Permanente employees must be paid for out of their own pocket.

The leadership of NUHW, the union which provided the document to the Chronicle and then issued a press release criticizing the story it helped create, is at this time actively campaigning against a proposed contract agreement, and as part of its campaign is trying to damage Kaiser Permanente’s reputation. What the union didn’t mention is that in our current contract offer, Kaiser Permanente is offering more money just in higher pay for our mental health employees over the next 2 years, then we might ever spend with the Warriors in 20 years.

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