Unionized hospitalists at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend have agreed to terms of an initial contract with the Oregon hospital, 18 months after forming the union and less than a week before a scheduled informational picket.
The organized hospitalists at Sacred Heart comprise the first such union in Oregon. The Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association has 30 hospitalists and advanced clinicians. The bargaining unit is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents hospital workers as well.
Dr. David Schwartz, a Sacred Heart hospitalist and president of the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association, said members have more than a week to review the contract before a vote on it is scheduled this month.
The two sides had a breakthrough in bargaining Tuesday when a compromise was approved that creates an advisory resource committee to discuss workloads and clinical issues, Schwartz said.
The committee of three management and three union representatives would bring in a facilitator to help resolve any stalemates on issues, Schwartz said. That facilitation would be collaborative but non-binding, noted Debra Miller, vice president of labor and caregiver relations for the hospital's parent company, not-for-profit PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Wash.
PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend, located in Springfield, Ore., is one of 10 hospitals that PeaceHealth operates in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.
Miller and Schwartz agreed that the economics of the contract and fringe benefits were resolved months ago. The last sticking point was input by hospitalists in conflict resolution, Schwartz said. Management had recommended the resource committee long ago, Miller said, because it has similar arrangements with nurses and others at its hospitals.
Miller said there are no other organizing drives underway by physicians at its other hospitals. She said she didn't expect any lingering tension between the hospitalists and management.
The PeaceHealth hospitalists were the subject of a lengthy profile in the New York Times in January, in which the physicians explained that they formed the union because the hospital intended to outsource the work to a third-party staffing company to lower costs. Schwartz said the new contract contains provisions that the hospitalists' work would not be outsourced over the length of the agreement.
If approved by members, the contract will run through October 2017. It includes a 4% raise, some performance bonuses for quality, readmission avoidance and discharge efficiency, Schwartz said.
Founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, PeaceHealth posted revenue of $2.6 billion in 2015.