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Kaiser Cancels Surgeries During Mental Health Therapists' Strike

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A Kaiser spokesperson on Tuesday confirmed non-urgent surgeries are being cancelled as a result of a five-day strike by the hospital's mental health therapists.

Laura Adams, who was scheduled to have heart surgery on Tuesday morning, received a phone call the day before from a Santa Clara Kaiser employee informing her that it could be months before doctors could perform the operation.

"People could die because of this," Adams said. "I was very upset because she told me it could be February, March before they could get me in."

Adams said although not life threatening, she has an irregular heartbeat and was looking forward to a surgery that had a 70 percent chance of fixing her health issue.

Adams is among the Kaiser patients scheduled this week for surgery who will not be going under the knife due to the hospital's strike, which the Kaiser Chief Executive Nurse Michelle Gaskill-Hames only confirmed after KPIX5 was tipped off by a patient who said his Wednesday surgery was cancelled.

The man, who did not want to be identified, said he never even received a call from hospital staff and had to make the call himself.

Gaskill-Hames said in a statement that although nurses weren't on strike, they decided to join the mental health therapists walking the picket line, which has now impacted medical services.

"Not all surgeries are being postponed. Surgeries are dependent upon appropriate staffing," Gaskill-Hames said in her statement. "We apologize to any patient whose non-urgent surgery has been postponed and will make every effort to reschedule promptly."

Adams said not only must she wait for surgery, but she'll be out $5,000 if the operation is scheduled next year. That's how much she pays for her yearly insurance deductible.

She said the Kaiser employee who called her Monday said she'd receive a call back the same day to reschedule her surgery. But Adams claims she's still waiting.

"It's a very big inconvenience and it's a hardship for us financially," she said. "I have to have it done because I don't want to live like this."

The strike, which began on Monday, is scheduled to last until Friday.

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