SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of mental health professionals in the U.S. San Francisco Bay Area ramped up their protest on Wednesday over staff shortage, increasing their strikes to 14 locations in the Bay area.
Employees from Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics started a strike on Monday at 10 locations in the Bay Area and other parts of northern California.
The demonstrators held placards which read "Care Delayed is Care Denied" while chanting "patient care" and other slogans to press for adequate care for mental health patients.
The Kaiser Permanente mental health professionals were into their third day of a planned five-day protest gathering some 4,000 psychologists, therapists, social workers, psychiatric nurses and other medical workers.
The National Union of Healthcare Workers tweeted Wednesday that the ongoing protest "is more than just higher wages, it's about @kpthrive (Kaiser Permanente) refusing to ensure our hospitals & clinics are staffed adequately to provide safe, timely access to mental health services."
An official of Kaiser Permanente rejected the claim, saying that the protesters were not seeking better health care for patients but higher wages.
"This is not about patient care, it's not about access. The reasons the union is striking have to do with their push for an increase in wages for the workers," Michelle Gaskill-Hames, chief nurse executive for Kaiser Permanente Northern California, told a local TV.
"The fact of the matter is that Kaiser Permanente is the highest-paying in the state of California for mental health professionals" she said.