Van De Wege calls for binding arbitration in hospital contract dispute
February 2, 2012 | By Washington House Democrats
OLYMPIA – In the wake of the ongoing impasse in contract talks between Olympic Medical Center and its health care workers, state Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D – Sequim) is calling on both sides to agree to binding arbitration to settle their dispute.
“This stalemate has persisted far too long, and is dividing our community at a time when we need to be standing together,” Van De Wege said. “Binding arbitration is a thorough, fair, and final process that allows both sides to present their cases. It’s time do this, accept the outcome, and move forward.”
Van De Wege is deeply concerned that the contract negotiations, which have been in progress for sixteen months, have been damaging to the relationship between the hospital’s management and its frontline health care workers, which is not in the public’s best interests. Olympic Medical Center is Clallam County’s largest employer.
A court has ruled that OMC’s health care workers cannot strike because they are considered public employees. Van De Wege says with striking off the table, the best path forward is binding arbitration. Neither side should unilaterally call the shots, he says.
The hospital is also seeking continued state support as lawmakers in Olympia work to close an approximately $1.4 billion budget shortfall. Potentially on the chopping block is $1.9 million that OMC receives each year through the state’s Certified Public Expenditure Program, which takes advantage of federal Medicaid match funding. The hospital also receives funding through the state’s Basic Health Plan and the Disability Lifeline Program.
“Cuts to rural health care centers like OMC would be devastating to our community,” Van De Wege said. “That’s what we need to be focusing on at this time. For the benefit of the employees and their families, OMC’s board and management, and the greater community, the parties must consent to binding arbitration as soon as possible.”