Physicians, P.A.s and A.R.N.Ps plan to strike MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care Clinics next Monday and Tuesday

MultiCare mask policy is in opposition to CDC and L&I safety guidelines


Healthcare providers at MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care clinics are planning to strike on Mon. and Tue., Nov. 23-24 if MultiCare doesn’t come to an agreement over working conditions by then, according to the union which represents them.

The Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD) told The JOLT today that negotiations started in Sept. 2019 have broken down, forcing the strike declaration. MultiCare Indigo has three clinics in Thurston County, one in each of Tumwater, Lacey and Olympia, and the providers in these locations are covered by the union agreement.

At the heart of the union’s strike declaration are several complaints. MultiCare has a policy that restricts the use of N95 masks during routine and urgent care at the Indigo clinics. Providers are working 12 hours and more “without breaks,” and “MultiCare has committed unfair labor practices” including “targeting outspoken union members, unilaterally changing work conditions” and failing to “provide information relevant to collective bargaining in an effort to bust the union” according to the union.

Several providers have contracted COVID-19 in recent months, according to Joe Crane, regional administrator of the UAPD; MultiCare claims that there is no clinical evidence that their staff is unsafe or that the providers contracted the virus while at work.

Providers routinely see 55 to 70 patients in a 12-hour shift, according to Crane. Occasionally this causes them to miss something important in an x-ray or other test, he said.  Clinics hours are set at 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, but late-coming patients often take up to two additional hours to serve. Most clinics are staffed with only one medical doctor, physician’s assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner at any particular time. Generally one provider works the entire 12-14 hour shift and “that one provider sees every single patient who comes through the door” according to Crane.

Use of N95 masks is mandated by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. A November 12 letter from L&I to MultiCare, provided by the UAPD, states that “employers must ensure that healthcare personnel collecting specimens use recommended personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes an N95 or higher-level respirator, eye protection, gloves, and a gown, when collecting specimens.”

MultiCare’s position on the use of lesser-grade masks is that they have “vetted our use of masks and PPE with infectious disease and infection control physicians and specialists internally and compared our PPE guidelines to other similar organizations. We’re completely confident our staff is safe,” according to a statement provided to The JOLT.  Further, MultiCare claims that “the procedure used to test for COVID-19 – mid-turbinate nasal swabs - is not aerosolizing and does not require N95s. N95s are used with procedures that generate aerosols such as intubation.”

Both parties have stated that they plan to meet this Friday, Nov. 20, for a mediation session to be moderated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliatory Service.


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