MultiCare challenged to invest in patient care and stop unfair labor practices
TACOMA – More than 730 Registered Nurses say MultiCare’s Tacoma General Hospital has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into market share expansion at the expense of patient care. The hospital’s overall safety grade has continued to decline since 2013 when it received an overall grade of A. The hospital’s safety rating has since been downgraded to an overall ranking of C this fall.
The hospital’s safety ratings come from The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, an independent nonprofit organization committed to driving quality, safety and transparency in the U.S. health system. MultiCare lists Leapfrog on its own website as one of MultiCare’s trusted Quality Information Sources.
“MultiCare is bent on building market share off the backs of its hardworking nurses,” said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, assistant executive director for labor relations for the Washington State Nurses Association. “They have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase hospitals and clinics in Spokane, but refuse to invest in patient care while engaging in unfair labor practices,” Himmelsbach said. “We are on the frontlines of keeping patients safe and delivering the services MultiCare promises our patients. Their refusal to invest in the frontlines of patient care while investing millions elsewhere sends the wrong message. Instead, MultiCare should be putting patient care before market share.”
Nurses have been battling Multicare for an entire year without a contract amid numerous unfair labor practices, which have interfered with the negotiations process. These include unlawful surveillance of nurses’ union activities, intimidation, withholding the gainsharing bonuses that nurses earned last year, and unilateral changes in the nurses’ working conditions that MultiCare imposed without bargaining with WSNA. The National Labor Relations Board has indicated that it will prosecute several of the unfair labor practice charges filed by WSNA, while others remain under federal investigation.
In an effort to spotlight patient safety concerns, hundreds of nurses will rally this Wednesday on local freeway overpasses before taking an advisory strike vote on Friday. The rally is scheduled between 8 am -10:30 am, Wednesday on the South Yakima Avenue Overpass on Interstate-5 in Tacoma. Nurses will take an advisory strike vote on Friday if the union’s mediation meeting this Wednesday does not result in a contract agreement.
Multicare’s expansion recently came under fire by the Tacoma News Tribune for having its hand out to the public before purchasing two Spokane hospitals and a chain of clinics last month for $425 million. MultiCare had previously promised to partner with CHI Franciscan Health to fully fund the construction of a 120-bed psychiatric hospital estimated to cost $40 million. But the two nonprofits asked local donors and elected officials to raise $20 million to cover part of the cost.
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Sue Evans, Northwest Media Allies
Ruth Schubert, WSNA Communications