600 Allina Health clinicians officially recognized as largest private-sector doctors union in the US
Made official by a certification of the National Labor Relations Board on Monday, roughly 600 Allina Health clinic doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in Minnesota and Wisconsin successfully unionized, creating the largest private-sector doctors union in the country.
As of the time of certification, the union consists of 60 clinics in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin.
“I’m so thrilled. I’m so excited,” said Dr. Katherine Oyster, Allina Health Cottage Grove Clinic family medicine and obstetrics physician and organizing member of the newly formed Doctors Council SEIU Local 10-MD union.
Asked for her reaction, Allina Health Maplewood Clinic pediatrician Dr. Kristin Sanders-Gendreau said, “It’s ‘The hard work begins.'”
“I hope Allina can see this as the opportunity that it is to actually take and listen to the heart, soul and backbone of health care — which is primary care clinicians — and to allow us to be a 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, organizing providers said it’s not pay nor better benefits that they’re fighting for.
“It sounds cliché, but I think the most important thing that we are asking for is a seat at this table,” Sanders-Gendreau said.
Oyster and by pediatric nurse practitioner Beth Gunhus echoed the sentiment in an earlier interview on Sunday.
“Allina already has a structure in place with lots and lots of committees. I don’t know that we need to reinvent the wheel. I think we simply need to be able to actually be part of these decisions,” Sanders-Gendreau continued, referring to decisions the clinicians said they hope will improve patient care.
First on that list, according to all of the above providers, was loosening clinic metrics, which as Sanders-Gendreau explained, are measures of a provider’s productivity 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 required metrics get in the way of the most effective care, she continued.
“Maybe just getting better is all something someone can hope for. But to meet this measure, you really have to push patients harder than perhaps that individual patient needs to,” Sanders-Gendreau said.
Oyster added, “And being able to really tailor in medicine for their specific needs is what we were taught how to do and what we’ve been doing less of, and why I think a lot of us are really excited to try and get conditions moving so that we can get back to it.”
“I think we’ve made it clear that this is really important to the health of our community and to each individual family,” Gunhus concluded.
Union organizers expect to spend the next roughly year and a half bargaining before an initial contract is signed with Allina Health.
In a statement Monday, an Allina Health spokesperson wrote, “It would be premature and speculative to discuss the potential impacts of a labor contract that has not yet been negotiated,” adding, “Throughout the process, patients will continue to remain at the center of all we do.”
Allina’s full statement can be viewed below:
“At Allina Health, our care teams provide exceptional patient care, and the addition of a union does not change our unwavering commitment to the communities we serve nor does it impact their access to care. It would be premature and speculative to discuss the potential impacts of a labor contract that has not yet been negotiated. In health care, the average length of time to bargain 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 all we do.“