PeaceHealth says striking hospital workers could lose their health insurance

More than 1,300 employees at Vancouver’s largest hospital will lose their health insurance effective Nov. 1 if they continue with threats to strike next week, hospital administrators warned Tuesday.

These 1,300 people work at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and are members of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. To prevent a last-minute deal, workers plan to strike on October 23 in Vancouver and at other PeaceHealth sites in Southwest Washington.

According to union supporters, the insurance threat is the latest in a series of tough actions by PeaceHealth aimed at breaking the will of workers, who voted 95% in favor of a strike last week. before.

Shawna Ross, a sonographer at PeaceHealth Southwest Washington, said PeaceHealth has definitely taken the low road with their threats and threats.

Officials with the nonprofit health care organization said they were frustrated by their inability to find common ground with the union. We are committed to reaching a fair agreement,” said Debra Carnes, senior director of marketing and communications at PeaceHealth.

Every major health system operating in the Portland area has been impacted by labor actions over the past 12 months. In most cases, hospital management has largely met what workers wanted.

Like most staff at other area hospitals, a top priority for PeaceHealth staff is new staffing regulations that will require minimum staff-to-patient ratios. They are also looking for a 5% increase in each of the next three years.

The union represents certified nursing assistants, respiratory technicians, janitors and others.

PeaceHealth officials confirmed that striking workers could lose their health insurance. But they say the union is partly responsible. Carnes said employers routinely identify at the beginning of each month which workers are eligible for coverage.

Carnes said most unions called strikes earlier this month to avoid costly health insurance coverage for their members. She added that employees who lose coverage will be eligible to continue receiving coverage through COBRA.

COBRA is a federal law that allows workers and their families who lose coverage to continue participating in their employer’s group health plan. COBRA is expensive because it typically requires individuals to pay the entire premium.

Jonathan Baker, the union’s president, said contract negotiations centered on an issue of respect. After risking the health of themselves and their families working during COVID, health care workers have been praised for their sacrifice.

“You had the hospital repeatedly say these people were heroes,” Baker said. We entered these negotiations with the mindset that our members would receive the respect and attention they deserve. But throughout this process, it became clear that that wasn’t going to happen.

Baker is a respiratory technician at PeaceHealth St. John in Longview. He is one of about 20 workers in St. John prepares to strike.

In February, PeaceHealth gave its non-union employees a 5% pay raise. As a result, union members said they expected to receive the same 5% incentive at the start of negotiations. Instead, PeaceHealths’ initial offer was a 3% increase.

In contrast, Elizabeth Dunne, CEO of PeaceHealth, is paid $5.6 million in 2022, more than double the $2.7 million she received in 2000.

Meanwhile, PeaceHealth has made cuts elsewhere. It caused a stir in Eugene in August when it announced it would close Sacred Heart Medical Center University Campus. PeaceHealth officials say Eugene’s only hospital is losing $2 million a month. They have not determined when the facility will close.

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