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Harborview clinics to remain open after community outcry

Exterior view with flowers in foreground of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.SEATTLE (Feb. 27, 2014) — After months of advocacy from Harborview nurses and healthcare workers (SEIU Healthcare 1199NW) and other Harborview employees (Washington Federation of State Employees), local elected leaders and healthcare group Washington CAN!, Harborview’s Interim CEO Johnese Spisso announced Wednesday that Harborview will not be closing or relocating clinics.

Since the moment the closures were announced in mid-December, clinic and hospital employees, their unions, and patient and advocacy groups have been actively pursuing a reversal of the closures, citing the impact the loss of culturally competent and accessible care would have on the community. The closures were slated to take place on July 1, 2014.

On the eve of a Board of Trustees meeting where nurses, healthcare workers, and patients were slated to again testify about the closures, Harborview for the first time Wednesday publicly recanted its closure announcement.

“We are writing to again confirm that Harborview Medical Center is not closing or relocating any of the existing Harborview primary care clinics,” Spisso wrote in an email statement. Harborview’s previous position had been that it wasn’t “closing services;” this is the first written confirmation that clinics will not close or relocate.

“Our patients and our community take heart in knowing that care will continue to be there for them when they need it,” said Scott Canaday, an Angio Tech at Harborview Medical Center and member of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.  “This is the right decision.”

Cleeesther Thomas, WFSE Local 1488 vice president and patient services specialist who has worked in Harborview’s Women’s Clinic for 35 years, applauded the news:

I think this is a victory for the patients because they will continue to have wrap-around, one-stop-shop care. By keeping the clinics on-site at Harborview, our patients won’t be pushed out to the neighborhoods, where they can fall through the cracks and be lost. No neighborhood clinics can replicate the level of culturally-competent care we provide at Harborview, and I think the patients will be very happy.

Said WFSE/AFSCME Council Representative James Dannen, “It took a real team effort to prevent the University of Washington from closing Harborview’s primary care clinics. Our victory shows that when union members stand up and speak out, we can hold the University and Harborview accountable to their public missions.”

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