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St. Charles Employees Seek Union

300 St. Charles employees are attempting to join the nation's second-largest teachers union

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About 300 St. Charles Health System employees filed for union representation on June 3, just a few weeks after the health care provider terminated 181 positions, citing large budget deficits. The employees are represented by the Central Oregon Providers Network and hope to join the American Federation of Teachers, the United States second largest teachers union that also includes about 20,000 health care professionals in its ranks.

ST. CHARLES BEND
  • St. Charles Bend

The union isn't seeking wage increases or better benefits; rather, it's seeking greater impact in the decision-making process at the hospital system. An AFT press release contends St. Charles' current deficit is a result of poor management decisions before and during the pandemic that are affecting patient care.

"With a union, St. Charles will no longer be able to ignore our input affecting patient care. We need to be at the table and work with the administration to ensure patients are the top priority. Through collaboration, we can improve patient care and ensure responsible decision-making," said Dr. Josh Plank, a hospitalist, in a press release.

Organizers hope to hold elections for union positions in the coming weeks. St. Charles, which employs upwards of 4,500 people in Central Oregon throughout Bend, Prineville, Redmond, La Pine, Madras and Sisters, said that patient care is the hospital system's highest priority and that it will work with a union, though it's not its preference.

"We greatly value our employed providers and respect their right to take this step, although we'd far prefer to work directly with them in partnership while navigating these unprecedented times," said Dr. Jeff Absalon, chief physician executive for St. Charles Health System in a press release. "We know many health care workers are frustrated and exhausted after the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our focus as individuals and a health system needs to be on healing and recovering from the pandemic and stabilizing our finances so that we can preserve and strengthen the vital health care services that we provide to our community."

About The Author

Jack Harvel

Jack is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and has been making his way west since graduating from the University of Missouri, working a year and a half in Northeast Colorado before moving to Bend in the Spring of 2021. When not reporting he’s either playing folk songs (poorly) or grand strategy video games,...

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