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Union slams proposed Tualatin clinic

The Tualatin City Council will hold a public hearing Monday on the project's architectural review recommendation

TUALATIN - A nationwide campaign accusing large hospitals of 'cherry picking' locations for new health centers is being used to go after Providence's proposed 80,000-square-foot health center in Tualatin.

Service Employees International Union Local 49 believes that the construction of the Providence Bridgeport Health Center will 'likely increase health care costs for all in the region' and strip away revenue from Legacy Meridian Park Hospital by carefully choosing to offer only the most profitable services like diagnostic imaging. SEIU has cited permitting issues as the reason why the project should not be approved by the city.

The union's stance against the Providence project is attributed to SEIU's participation in a nationwide Make Health Care Work Campaign.

But Dave Underriner, chief executive for Providence Health System's Portland service area, called the opposition by SEIU Local 49 a 'corporate campaign' designed to force Providence to have employees who do not belong to a union be represented by SEIU.

SEIU Local 49 spokeswoman Shauna Ballo admitted that some employees at Providence are currently working to become part of the union.

But, said Ballo, Providence is known as one of the more aggressive health care systems in terms of building new facilities, and the nationwide campaign is designed to question the planning processes that allow new medical facilities to be built.

'We're trying to step up wherever possible instead of just allowing (health systems) to build wherever they want, whenever they want,' Ballo said.

Underriner noted SEIU has taken an active stance against Providence's project in Everett, Wash., and an SEIU lawyer attended some meetings concerning a project in Happy Valley, but the group gave no opposition to Providence's project in Newberg.

In respect to the Tualatin project, Underriner said Providence is simply trying to fill a need for health care in a growing community.

Ballo said that in the case of Tualatin, Providence cherry-picked a site that was a more affluent location rather than trying to put a health center in a less affluent area with a higher need for health center services.

Attorney Michael C. Robinson, of Perkins Cole in Portland, represented Providence during a Jan. 10 Architectural Review Board meeting. According to the meeting minutes, Robinson referred to SEIU's opposition as 'a canned campaign' that had no relevance to the ARB's function or approval criteria.

David C. Noren, a lawyer for SEIU, had argued at the Jan. 10 board meeting that Providence's proposed health center is not properly permitted to build along Lower Boones Ferry Road, which is zoned general commercial. However, Noren also discussed the negative effects Providence's health center could have on the region's overall health care costs.

Despite SEIU's opposition, Tualatin Architectural Review Board members agreed in February on a recommendation to allow the project to proceed to the development review and construction process. Providence plans to construct a three-story, 80,000-square-foot building along Lower Boones Ferry Road next door to the site of the new Claim Jumper restaurant.

The Tualatin City Council will hold a public hearing on the board's recommendation Monday during the regular council meeting.