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News / Business / Clark County Business

Legacy Health Primary Care Clinics workers call for union

‘Happier providers make for happier patients’; election expected in about a month

By Sarah Wolf, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 8, 2024, 6:11pm

Doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners from Legacy Health’s Primary Care Clinics have called for a union election.

Among other things, the providers want a voice in the controversial merger between the Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University hospital systems.

If the effort is successful, the providers will join the nearly 200 hospitalists around the Portland-based hospital system and 17 physicians from Legacy Women’s Clinic who have voted to unionize since last year.

Legacy has 30 providers at its four primary care clinics in Clark County: Legacy Medical Group-Camas, Legacy Medical Group Family Wellness in Vancouver, Legacy Medical Group-Salmon Creek Family Medicine and Legacy Medical Group-Salmon Creek Internal Medicine.

“Happier providers make for happier patients, and our combined goal should always be to improve patient satisfaction and outcomes,” Chris Stamatakos, physician associate at Salmon Creek Primary Care, said in a statement Wednesday.

Legacy said in a statement Wednesday it respects the rights of its employees to join a union.

“We appreciate the continued hard work and dedication of our primary care providers, who play a vital role in delivering high-quality care to our patients and communities,” the nonprofit said. “We are committed to establishing a productive dialogue with the union representatives that will be working with Legacy on behalf of these providers.”

OHSU announced last summer its intent to acquire Legacy Health, although the merger has yet to close. It must first be approved by Oregon’s Health Care Marketplace Oversight program, part of the Oregon Health Authority.

Both hospital systems have suffered significant financial losses since the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing into question if the merger will actually happen.

Physicians, physician associates — the legal name for physician assistants in Oregon — and nurse practitioners from Legacy’s primary care clinics are hoping to join the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

“Provider satisfaction should be a central tenet to helping achieve organizational goals, despite the many challenges in health care today,” Stamatakos said.

The cohort of 150 providers announced their intentions Tuesday and submitted union authorization cards to the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday. An election is expected to follow in about a month, according to the Oregon Nurses Association, which staffs the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association.

Stamatakos said the need for representation has never been greater.

The providers say they want to ensure patient safety; increase retention, recruitment and respect of caregivers; and implement safe staffing that will decrease burnout while improving caregiver well-being.

There’s a growing effort among health care providers to unionize in the region. Lab workers at Labcorp, which operates at Legacy Health Salmon Creek, voted to unionize last week. And professionals at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver are undergoing a union vote now.