TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Employees at a troubled Tacoma psychiatric hospital have voted to unionize.
The News Tribune reports that workers at Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital on Thursday decided to join SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.
According to a statement from the union the new bargaining unit includes nurses, mental health technicians, unit secretaries and housekeeping staff. In all, 127 employees will be represented.
Since it opened in May 2019, Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital has faced multiple state investigations that have revealed an array of health, safety and staffing concerns. Leadership at the hospital has often been in tumult, most recently with the departure of former CEO Matt Crockett earlier this year.
Laurel Titland, 63, is a charge nurse who has worked at Wellfound since shortly after its ribbon cutting. Titland voted in favor of unionization, she said, in large part because of staffing concerns — and what she described as a shortage of providers.
“To do my job well, I need time with patients. And when I get that time, I can see that my patients improve and make great strides in their mental health,” Titland said.
Wellfound spokesperson Marce Edwards Olson acknowledged the successful unionization vote in a statement.
“We respect the majority decision of our employees and look forward to the collective bargaining process,” Olson said. ”The well-being of our Wellfound team members is always a top priority, and we work hard to listen to and collaborate with them.”
Launched as a joint venture between health care giants MultiCare and CHI Franciscan, the $41 million Wellfound benefited from millions of dollars in public funding but has yet to open to capacity.
There are 120 beds at the facility, but according to Edwards Olson, only half of them are currently operational.