SEIU Local 49 Wins Contract at PeaceHealth St. John’s

The healthcare system has been troubled by employee dissatisfaction while top executives continue to leave with no end in sight.

Almost the same time that Beth O’Brien announced her departure as chief operating officer of PeaceHealth, the troubled healthcare system once again found itself confronting dissatisfaction among its employees.

Last week the technical workers at PeaceHealth St. John’s voted to align with SEIU Local 49, which will now handle its salary and benefit negotiations. Of the 100 employees, 64 percent voted in favor. SEIU now represents more than 2,800 PeaceHealth employees across its system, and recently negotiated a four-year contract for its caregivers, giving them a 10.75 across the board wage increase.

“It’s yet another PeaceHealth unit seeking representation in the midst of management upheaval and across the board worker dissatisfaction,” a confidential source told The Lund Report. “Complete disconnect with employees and management. Nobody knows the direction of the mess.”

St. John’s falls under the Columbia Network, which has been without a CEO since Nancy Steiger left in September after spending nine years in executive positions. Carol Aaron is now in charge, havng recently been promoted to executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

Speculation is also rampant that Val Baciarellia, senior vice president for operations and system services, will leave PeaceHealth soon. He became interim chief administrative officer following the resignation of Kirk Raboin, who stepped down following a 36-year career.

PeaceHealth has had three CEOs and at least three rounds of external consultants tasked with making St. John's Medical Center and Southwest Washington Medical Center profitable, and they are a huge drain on the organization.

“Disconnect between senior executive leadership and staff is pretty common at PeaceHealth,” according to our source. “The employee engagement surveys done show that as well as anything else. The senior system executive leaders rarely ever leave the corporate office, and when they do, it's for short, brief periods of time that they actually interact with people doing the work.”

There’s also speculation that O’Brien may not have left on her own initiative, even though she’s relocating to the East Coast to be closer to family.

Earlier, three top-management employees at Sacred Heart were let go. They include Louella Freeman, chief nursing officer; Wendy Apland, Oregon network chief financial officer; and Kris Kitz, network vice president of strategy, innovation and development.

Rand O’Leary, chief executive of the PeaceHealth Oregon Network, sent an email to local employees announcing their departure. PeaceHealth has about 6,000 employees in Lane County with hospitals in Springfield, Eugene, Cottage Grove and Florence.

Of the three departing executives, Apland has the longest track record with the company. She joined PeaceHealth in 1998 and, in her most recent role, provided financial strategy and oversaw and coordinated all network financial services including finance, accounting, patient financial services, payer contracting, property management, supply chain and information technology.

Freeman joined PeaceHealth in August of 2014. In her latest role, Freeman was in charge of patient care services at the 349-bed tertiary medical center and had a long career in leadership positions.

Kitz also joined recently, in March of 2014. As a member of the executive team, he had been responsible for strategic, operational and business planning and new business development for Oregon. He was also the regional executive leader for women's, children's and cardiac services.

PeaceHealth had lower revenue than forecast in its budget and saw a saw a significant drop in the paper value of the nonprofit’s investments, according to a confidential financial statement obtained by The Lund Report.

Vancouver-based PeaceHealth operates 10 hospitals across Oregon, Washington and Alaska, along with a large network of clinics, labs and other health-related programs. Its fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30. The financial document obtained by The Lund Report provides a snapshot of PeaceHealth’s current year performance through April 30 – in other words, the first 10 months of the current 12-month fiscal year. While the most recent full-year financial reports for individual hospitals based in Oregon show those institutions turning large profits, including three of PeaceHealth’s four hospitals in the state in its 2014-2015 fiscal year, the parent company is not performing as well in the current year.

Diane can be reached at [email protected].

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