More than 550 physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners across 60 clinics at Allina Health Primary Care and Urgent Care voted to unionize in an unusual partnership.
The group will be represented by Doctors Council SEIU, Local 10MD. Doctors Council is the largest union for attending physicians in the country, now with more than 4000 members.
Joe Crane, national organizing director of the Doctors Council, says he’s confident that Allina has no legal basis to challenge the outcome. “We won by such a margin that the challenge ballots didn’t count,” he says. “I’m hoping that Allina does the right thing and recognizes us and starts bargaining with physicians and PAs and NPs.”
Allina Health, which has resisted unionization efforts across its system, released a statement saying that while they were disappointed in the outcome of the vote, they “remain committed to our ongoing work to create a culture where all employees feel supported and valued. Our focus now is on moving forward to ensure the best interests of our employees, patients, and the communities we serve.”
Patient Care First
Although physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants often scrap over scope of practice issues, they united over similar concerns over working conditions and patient safety.
The unionization effort was motivated less by money than by staffing and patient care concerns, Britta Kasmarik, CNP, and one of the Allina organizers, told Medscape earlier this year.
Although the pandemic made things worse, inadequate staffing predates the crisis, organizers said. They argue that consolidation of medical groups and hospitals has led healthcare organizations to scrimp on staffing and demand productivity at the expense of patient care and the mental health of providers.
Frances Quee, MD, newly elected president of Doctors Council SEIU, said in a press release that Allina clinicians organized a union because “they have experienced an erosion of their ability to practice medicine, as critical thinkers, as scientists, and as talented and compassionate dedicated professionals.”
“We were trained to put patients first, to above all do no harm,” says Kristin Sanders-Gendreau, MD, a pediatrician and one of the organizers at the Allina Maplewood Clinic. “And corporate medicine has made it harder and harder for us to actually keep that vow.”
At the Table
When they get to the bargaining table, the members intend to advocate for their patients, says Crane. This includes advocating for support staff so clinicians can spend more time talking with patients and less time taking care of administrative work. “They want to take their profession back,” he says. “They want to be able to sit at the bargaining table and explain to Allina that things aren’t working, that [the current system] isn’t sustainable.”
But the organizers don’t see it as an “us vs Allina” situation. “We are Allina,” says Sanders-Gendreau. “We are a part of that business, and we think that the business will be stronger if we have a voice.”
The prospects for collective bargaining in healthcare look promising. The same day the Allina vote was announced, 75,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente reached a tentative agreement that included, in addition to wage increases, a commitment on the part of Kaiser to fully staff all positions and to involve workers in improving patient care, according to Doctors Council.
The Kaiser action, Crane says, sent “a little shockwave through healthcare showing that you can draw a line and say ‘enough is enough’ — and when you do that, you can win.”
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Publish date : 2023-10-19 22:09:30
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