Union coalition calls on King County Council to reform Harborview Medical Center

Devereux (right) testifies before the King County Committee of the Whole.

Devereux (right) testifies before the King County Committee of the Whole.

The coalition effort to bring greater transparency and accountability in how the University of Washington runs the King County-owned Harborview Medical Center came before the county council’s Committee of the Whole Wednesday (April 16).

“We believe the upcoming Harborview contract negotiations (the agreement under which the UW runs the hospital on Seattle’s First Hill) between the UW and the county will afford us and the other unions the opportunity to improve our relationship with the UW and probably improve your relationship with the UW as well,” Federation Executive Director Greg Devereux told the committee.

The committee and the full council are considering a formal motion guiding those negotiations that will determine if the UW continues to run the county hospital. The UW uses Harborview as a teaching hospital, accounting for 25 percent to 40 percent of its program on such invaluable skills as trauma care.

The snowballing movement is all about ensuring quality patient care and making sure the UW follows the county’s values on how to treat its employees. The coalition recently got the UW to reverse its proposed closure of several Harborview critical care clinics.

“We look forward to being a partner with all of you as we go through our negotiations,” Committee of the Whole Chair Jane Hague told Devereux, the Federation’s Rod Palmquist and Cleeesther Thomas and representatives from SEIU.

“We want to make sure that the culture of care continues.”

In his testimony, Devereux presented the committee with a previous set of recommendations from February 2014 and the new Federation-authored comprehensive 276-page “Report on WFSE-University of Washington Relations.”

Devereux said there are three key “asks” as the council negotiates with the UW over who and how Harborview is run:

• Strengthening and reforming Harborview’s governance structure.

• Promoting fiscal transparency and accountability regarding Harborview as a component within the broader UW Medicine system.

• Limiting the UW and Harborview’s unilateral authority to oversee collective bargaining.

Councilmember Dave Upthegrove raised the very real possibility with Devereux that the county may open up Harborview to “a range of potential providers” beyond the UW.

“Both parties gain a lot but I think it’s always useful to look at alternatives and see if there is something that would be better for the community,” Devereux told Upthegrove.

“After all, for all of us, this is about people served. So if somebody else can do it better, I would think that you’d want to take a look at that.”


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