Allina Health’s 600 Clinicians Successfully Form Largest Private-Sector Physician Union in US
Made official by National Labor Relations Board certification Monday, approximately 600 physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants at Allina Health clinics in Minnesota and Wisconsin have successfully unionized, creating the nation’s largest private-sector physician union.
At the time of certification, the alliance consists of 60 clinics in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.
“I’m so excited. I’m so excited,” said Dr. Kathryn Oyster, a family medicine and obstetrics physician at Allina Health Cottage Grove Clinic and an organizing member of the newly formed SEIU Local 10-MD union.
Asked about her reaction, Allina Health Maplewood Clinic pediatrician Dr. Christine Sanders-Gendreau said, “The hard work begins.”
“I hope that Alina can see this as an opportunity, which is really to take and listen to the heart, soul and backbone of healthcare – which is the primary care clinicians – and allow us to be part of the process, so that we can make things better for ourselves and for our patients,” Sanders-Gendreau added.
Unlike other labor disputes in the national spotlight, the organizing providers said they are not fighting for pay or better benefits.
“It sounds cliché, but I think the most important thing we want is a seat at that table,” Sanders-Gendreau said.
Oyster and pediatric nurse practitioner Beth Gunhus echoed that sentiment in an interview earlier Sunday.
“Alina already has an established structure with many, many committees. I don’t know that we need to reinvent the wheel. I think we just need to be able to actually be a part of those solutions,” Sanders-Gendreau continued, referring to the solutions that clinicians said they hope will improve patient care.
First on that list, according to all of the above providers, was the loosening of clinical metrics, which, as Sanders-Gendreau explained, are measures of a provider’s performance based on the number of patients they see and how much those patients’ health improves under their care.
Some of that data is important, but many of the necessary metrics get in the way of the most effective care, she continued.
“Perhaps only improvement is all one can hope for. But to do this measure, you really have to push patients harder than maybe the individual patient needs to,” Sanders-Gendreau said.
Oyster added, “And being able to really tailor medicine to their specific needs is what we’ve been taught how to do and what we’ve been doing less, and why I think a lot of us are really excited to try and get conditions moving so we can get back to it.
“I think we’ve made it clear that this is really important for the health of our community and for each individual family,” Gunhus concluded.
Union organizers expect to spend the next year and a half negotiating before an initial contract with Allina Health is signed.
In a statement Monday, an Allina Health spokesperson wrote, “It would be premature and speculative to discuss the potential impacts of an employment contract that has not yet been negotiated,” adding, “Throughout the process, patients will continue to remain at the center of everything , which we do.”
Allina’s full statement can be seen below:
“At Allina Health, our care teams deliver exceptional patient care, and the addition of a union does not change our unwavering commitment to the communities we serve or impact their access to care. It would be premature and speculative to discuss the potential impact of an employment contract that has not yet been negotiated. In healthcare, the average length of time to negotiate a first contract is more than 500 days, and across all industries the average length of time is more than 400 days. Throughout the process, patients will continue to remain at the center of everything we do.“