Emergency department physicians working at Providence Medford Medical Center announced their plans to file with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for union recognition.
The new group, Southern Oregon Providers Association (SOPA), will focus its collective bargaining power on addressing understaffing and safe patient care and ensuring access to care for the region’s most vulnerable patients. SOPA will partner with the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association (PNWHMA), an existing hospitalists union represented by the American Federation of Teachers (Local 6552) and serviced by the Oregon Nurses Association.
“Our patients have experienced increasing wait times and delays in care because of a lack of staff. In many cases I have had to transfer them to facilities hundreds of miles away because we don’t have anyone who can perform certain procedures,” said David Levin, DO. “Providence management should be focusing on improving staffing and gaps in patient care, but when we repeatedly brought our concerns to their attention we have been met with silence. Unionizing helps balance the scales between us and management so we can make this a place that patients recommend first to their loved ones, and a magnet workplace for providers.”
On Thursday, February 9, 2023, the physicians delivered a letter to management petitioning for voluntary recognition so that they could promptly begin collective bargaining over their concerns about patient care, staffing, and other issues. After being declined for voluntary recognition by Providence administration, the physicians filed for a union recognition election through traditional NLRB mechanisms today, February 10, 2023.
Dr. Mollie Skov-Ortega, President of the PNWHMA at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, said, “It is exciting to add another group of physicians to our association. When we voted to unionize more than eight years ago, it gave us the strength and the voice to be able to stand up for what matters most – patient care and patient safety. We stand behind Southern Oregon Providers Association so they can have the opportunity to do the same.”
Dr. Levin says it’s the strong bond his colleagues share with each other and the community that keeps them there but being called upon regularly to fill in for other roles in the hospital is taxing. “As ER physicians we have a diverse skill set that can be put to use in other departments, but when I leave to help the ICU, who is going to take care of those in the ER waiting room? Providence must make a renewed commitment to how they recruit and retain staff so I and my colleagues can focus on what we do best – treating patients who come to the emergency room.”
Providence Senior Communications Manager Julie Denney issued the following response:
Providence Medford respects the rights of caregivers to explore representation. We encourage people to learn as much as possible about joining a union before voting. To that end, we will provide open and transparent conversations, support and education so that they can make an informed decision.
Consistent with our existing labor principles, we will follow the NLRB’s process of a secret ballot election. Whatever outcome results- we will respect the decision, which is determined by the majority of eligible caregivers who vote.