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Tualatin gives go-ahead to Providence medical center

by: Image courtesy of Providence Health Systems, PROPOSED CENTER — This rendering shows the west entrance of the proposed Providence Bridgeport Health Center.

TUALATIN - Providence Health Systems has gotten the go ahead to proceed with its 80,000-square-foot health center development in Tualatin.

Despite an appeal for a review of the development's permitting designation by the Service Employees International Union Local 49, the Tualatin City Council agreed April 9 with the recommendation handed down by the Architectural Review Board to approve Providence's design for a proposed medical center.

SEIU representatives and the Local 49's lawyer David Noren argued that the medical center should be denied on the grounds that the development was neither a hospital nor a medical clinic - two uses that are clearly defined and listed as acceptable uses in general commercial planning districts.

Since the proposed Providence Bridgeport Health Center will not provide in-patient care, Noren argued that the 'medical center' was not listed as an acceptable use and should not be built in the GC district along Lower Boones Ferry Road.

But as explained by Community Development Director Doug Rux, the use is allowed. A section in the city's development code allows for the development director to make a determination on whether a use not specifically mentioned in the code is allowed in the district. And the code does allow for professional offices in the district, which, Rux said, would include doctors' offices.

SEIU Local 40 spokeswoman Shauna Ballo said April 10 that the union has no plans to further appeal the medical center development.

'We're sorry the city did not agree with us,' Ballo said. 'But we feel like we raised the issues we wanted to raise.'

SEIU's attempt to stop the construction of Providence's Tualatin health center was part of a larger national campaign called Make Health Care Work Campaign - a movement by unions to keep close tabs on hospital and medical center developments that are viewed as cherry-picking affluent areas and clients.

SEIU Local 49 believed that the construction of the Providence Bridgeport Health Center would '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.

Dave Underriner, the chief executive for the Providence Health System in the Portland service area, told the council that Providence does not cherry-pick sites. He noted that the health system has located clinics and centers in many under-served areas.

He added that the decision to build in Tualatin was based on a growing need by patients and clients for health care closer to home.