The Northwest Physicians Alliance has announced it will no longer represent physicians who practice with the Franciscan Medical Group.

“I interpret the union’s withdrawal to mean that our doctors are optimistic about the direction of our medical group,” soup,” says Cliff Robertson, chief medical officer for Franciscan Medical Group. “While we respect the right of our physicians and staff to seek representation, this action suggests that our doctors don’t feel they need a union as a third-party intermediary.”

Andrew Greenberg, an organizer for NWPA wouldn’t state things so bluntly.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Greenberg emphasizes. “We met a couple of times with the Franciscan doctors but the timing didn’t seem right. It was a mutual decision.”

Greenberg declined to be specific about what circumstances differentiated Franciscan between organizations such as Providence Health Systems and Medalia Healthcare—where NWPA continues unionization efforts.

Franciscan is a network of eight clinics throughout south King and Pierce counties. Franciscan received a letter earlier this month from the union stating it unequivocally disclaimed interest in representing the physicians in the medical group.

However, according to Greenberg, the NWPA’s letter to Franciscan means that—even if the NWPA decides to restart organizing efforts—the union will not be back for some time.

“The letter is binding,” Greenberg explains. “If we decide to continue efforts to unionize Franciscan, it probably wouldn’t take place for about a year.”

Franciscan Medical Group, which has 52 physicians, began operations in April 1999, after the split up of Medalia Healthcare, a network of primary care clinics throughout Puget Sound that was co-sponsored by the Providence and Franciscan Health Systems.

In June 1998, Medalia physicians voted to be represented by a labor union. After Franciscan Medical Group was formed earlier this year, it recognized Northwest Physicians Alliance as a bona fide representative of its medical staff and agreed to bargain with it.

“Our physicians have taken a strong lead in making decisions locally as part of this new organization,” says Robertson.

He points out that since its formation in April, Franciscan has successfully recruited five new physicians, converted to a more effective computer system and installed a new phone system that provides better access for patients, while maintaining steady patient volumes.

Franciscan Medical Group clinics include St. Joseph Medical Center and Franciscan Care Center in Tacoma, Tacoma South Medical Clinic, St Clare Hospital in Lakewood, St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way, Buckley Medical Clinic, Gig Harbor Medical Clinic, The Clinic at Spanaway, University Place Medical Clinic and Enumclaw Medical Center.

By Christopher Hord, Business Examiner staff