What Makes You Think It Couldn't Happen Here?

Posted 7/1/17

On June 30th, Harrison Health Partners fired all their union healthcare workers in Port Orchard.

On Monday, their jobs will be posted and they can reapply, but if they are hired, they will no …

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What Makes You Think It Couldn't Happen Here?

Posted

On June 30th, Harrison Health Partners fired all their union healthcare workers in Port Orchard.

On Monday, their jobs will be posted and they can reapply, but if they are hired, they will no longer have the ability to collectively bargain with their employer. There is no guarantee that they will be re-hired, no matter how long or how well they have performed their duties.

Harrison became affiliated with Catholic Health Initiatives a few years ago. Friends there report troubling changes in their working conditions since then. My husband and I drove down to the Bremerton campus last week, in fact, to support people working there after the police were called to remove from the cafeteria people talking about their contract negotiations with the hospital. As we ate our delicious lunch while wearing bright yellow union t-shirts, suited and high-heeled management types came to the cafeteria and glared at their employees.

It is hard to understand why the managers were so angry. All the people I spoke with at Harrison mentioned safe staffing levels and limiting mandatory overtime as their top priorities. What they are asking for is consistent with evidence-based guidelines also promoted by the Washington State Nurses Association. It is just common sense that providing good patient care also means caring for the workers who take care of patients. Harrison management doesn't seem to believe that.

Neither, apparently, does Mike Glenn, CEO of Jefferson Healthcare, who tried to influence our state representatives to vote against safe staffing levels for hospitals proposed in the legislature and supported by the Washington State Nurses Association. He was supported by a majority of the Jefferson County hospital commissioners.

When I see the damage that the leadership of Harrison has done in breaking the trust of their employees and their patients, I feel the stakes in our local hospital commissioner election are too high not to take an interest and get involved. The same market forces that have led Catholic Health Initiatives to gobble up Harrison and The Doctors Clinic affect Port Townsend and Jefferson Healthcare, but we are fortunately part of a local hospital district. That means it is governed by local citizens, who can put the needs of our community first.

As I decide how to cast my vote in the upcoming primary, I ask myself how I can be sure what happened at Harrison can't happen here. Do I want to vote for a candidate favored by management, or one that will hold Jefferson Healthcare accountable to the public interest?

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