King County and the University of Washington announced an agreement Monday for the UW to continue operating Harborview Medical Center.

Share story

Harborview Medical Center, the region’s premiere trauma center and burn unit, will remain devoted to its original core mission as a provider of health care for King County’s poor, according to an agreement reached by the county and the University of Washington.

The university and county on Monday announced the 10-year contract that formalizes the agreement and the hospital’s core mission, and says care will be more accessible in community-based clinics. The contract could be extended to 30 years if both sides agree.

The previous contract between the county and the university had expired in June of 2015.

According to the Washington Federation of State Employees, the new contract was held up over the University of Washington’s controversial plan to close critical-care and community clinics at the hospital and the treatment of custodians, call-center operators and other employees.

Critics said the University of Washington had lost sight of one of Harborview’s core missions, which is to serve as the county’s hospital caring for the poor and indigent.

The new contract provides clear direction on how Harborview will achieve its mission as a public hospital by serving those who are most vulnerable and those who do not have health insurance, according to a statement.

“This is, literally, the county’s hospital,” said Clayton Lewis, president of the Harborview board of trustees. “We want the voters and citizens of King County to have a sense of pride and ownership.”

The 139-year-old hospital has been run by the UW for the county for 45 years, since the county asked for help from the university, said Chad Lewis, a spokesman from King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Last year, the Metropolitan King County Council approved a blueprint for the negotiations based on the vision and principles for how it believed a county hospital should be run.

County Council members said that because Harborview is a public medical facility, it has a commitment to treating the indigent, sick, injured and infirm of King County and that patients should not be turned away by their inability to pay. In addition, the county said, the operator of the facility should place a high priority on creating a positive relationship between management and employees.

The hospital is owned by King County and governed by a board of trustees appointed by the county. Harborview Medical Center is the only designated Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma and burn center in the state of Washington and serves as the regional trauma and burn referral center for Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

Since 1970, Harborview has been operated through a partnership with the University of Washington Medical School. This agreement has been governed by a series of contracts delineating the roles and responsibilities of the county, the board of trustees and the University of Washington.

The contract has been approved by the board of trustees and the unions.

“We commend King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council for their leadership to ensure that this jewel of King County’s health-care system will have high ground labor relations with UW Medicine to continue providing quality patient care,” said Diane Sosne, president of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW.

It will now go before the County Council and the UW Board of Regents for final approval.