Urgent care doctors striking over long hours, lack of PPE

MultiCare Strike outside Tacoma General

TACOMA, Wash. — As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, more than 100 doctors and health care providers are striking Monday and Tuesday.

Union members say Tacoma-based MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care facilities have unsafe working conditions.

As workers picket outside MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, doctors will speak about ways they say MultiCare is putting patients at risk.

Doctors and union leadership say urgent care workers are forced to “work excessively long and fatiguing shifts and fail to provide N95 masks as providers test hundreds of COVID-19 patients each day.”

The union says the clinics are understaffed and don’t have sufficient personal protective equipment for employees.

The striking health care providers work at 20 MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care locations in the Puget Sound area.

MultiCare released the following statement regarding the strike:

Throughout 2020, we have continued to work with UAPD to bring a labor agreement to closure, so together we can focus on patient care. Yet less than 10 days ago, before our first session with a federal mediator, UAPD shared their intent to strike.

Friday and Saturday, we worked with a federal mediator and representatives from UAPD to re-affirm our priority for a fair contract that supports staff and patient safety and the communities we serve. We also renewed our proposal to immediately start the Joint Safety Committee. We clarified our intent to make employee and patient safety related to COVID-19 the first order of business when the committee convenes. As we’ve consistently stated, we believe a collaborative, thoughtful discussion involving providers and subject matter experts is the best way to develop appropriate protocols and PPE programs for the unique settings in our urgent care clinics. We were disappointed UAPD rejected our Safety Committee proposal and provided no alternate proposal.

Saturday morning, based on some guidance from the mediator, we made a formal written proposal that would have allowed the parties to keep talking and avert the strike. UAPD again rejected our proposal. It appears to us that UAPD thinks it is more important to ‘send a message’ by striking than do the hard work to finalize the collective bargaining agreement we have been working on for more than a year. UAPD has continued its months-long pattern of appearing to meet us in the middle, then bringing up new or old issues we understood to be resolved.

We also hear and share the frustration from these employees in the lack of progress, and how we all want to move forward. While we respect the union’s rights to push for terms that they find favorable, we want to stress that it is always more productive for both parties to remain at the bargaining table.

At a time when COVID-19 positive rates are as high as they have ever been in our area, our community members need and require us to be available to care for them. We remain focused on protecting our ability to care for our patients and communities during this pandemic.

We anticipate only minor interruptions to some Indigo Urgent Care clinics. Additionally, all MultiCare primary and specialty care clinics as well as our hospitals and emergency departments will be open for people who need health care services. Indigo patients often use our app or website to check in to our clinics or to reserve an appointment time, and we encourage any patient or community member to continue to use this route.

We value and appreciate all the care our employees are providing for our community members during this pandemic, and we are particularly grateful for those who choose to continue to join us in caring for our community members during these difficult times. We remain steadfast in our commitment to work hard and in partnership with the mediator and UAPD. We want UAPD to share this goal.