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Physicians’ Union Approves Strike Against MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care

More than half of U.S. physicians have personally treated someone with COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
More than half of U.S. physicians have personally treated someone with COVID-19. (Adobe Stock)
September 14, 2020

TACOMA, Wash. -- Doctors at MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care clinics say their union has authorized a strike, citing unsafe working conditions, lack of Personal Protective Equipment and concerns over how patients are scheduled and seen.

There are 22 MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care locations in the Puget Sound region, plus five clinics in Spokane and the inland Northwest. MultiCare physician Brian Fox said the company's 12-hour work shift policy and mandate that all patients who enter a clinic's door must be seen have exhausted doctors, with an uptick in volume during the pandemic.

"If a dozen patients walk in at 7:55 p.m., according to our policy, we're obligated to stay until all of those patients are seen," Fox said. "You know, after an exceptionally long day of seeing 40 or 45 patients in a shift, we wanted to have the option for patients that weren't as ill to say, 'Can we please reschedule you for tomorrow morning?'"

In a written statement, a spokesperson for MultiCare said they remain committed to the negotiation process and are working hard to negotiate a fair labor contract, and said its urgent-care clinics offer a number of shift options.

President of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists Dr. Stuart Bussey said doctors have reached a breaking point after a year of contract bargaining. He argued MultiCare's management hasn't taken its providers' concerns seriously enough.

"Doctors need a voice, an unimpeded voice, to advocate for the patient," Bussey said. "We still have the duty to take care of the patients as much as we can, without the interference of a profit-minded entity, called 'the employer.'"

Bussey added large healthcare corporations often are determined to see as many patients as quickly as possible, to increase revenue. He contends this makes for stressful and unsafe working conditions for staff, and less quality care for patients.

"It's now behind the military, the expenditure of this government - 19% of our gross product - is for health care, over $3 trillion," he said.

According to a Medscape survey, two-thirds of U.S. physicians report worsening levels of burnout and loneliness in the pandemic. The American Medical Association has developed some new resources to help physicians handle the increased stress and anxiety.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - WA