After months of concern that Harborview Medical Center was planning to close or relocate its primary-care clinics, officials Wednesday said the existing clinics would stay put.
In December, Harborview clinic faculty and staff said they had been told that officials wanted to move primary-care clinics out of the hospital. The news prompted opposition by faculty and staff members who argued the plan, as presented, would hurt low-income patients with complex health and social issues because the hospital is uniquely able to provide them the multifaceted help they need.
Former hospital leaders and members of the Metropolitan King County Council also expressed opposition. This month, Harborview’s executive director since 2008, Eileen Whalen, abruptly resigned.
In a Wednesday memo to faculty and staff, Johnese Spisso, chief health system officer for UW Medicine and interim executive director of Harborview, and Dr. Rick Goss, Harborview’s medical director, said Harborview is “not closing or relocating any of the existing Harborview primary care clinics.”
The memo came just ahead of a planned protest rally slated for Thursday by community groups and union members opposed to moving or closing the clinics. The rally was hastily called off and those who had planned to attend applauded the Harborview announcement.
Dr. Brian Johnston, chief of pediatrics, said pediatrics staff, with support from Harborview, are now exploring with Seattle Children’s and other organizations how best to meet the needs of pediatric patients from South Seattle and the Rainier Valley. Those options could include a “hub of general pediatric care and associated health services tailored to the low-income, high-risk kids we seek to serve,” he said.
Spisso and Goss, in their memo, asked faculty and staff to help spread the word that there are “no changes planned” for the clinics, and said the hospital will “continue our unwavering commitment to serving all patients at Harborview, regardless of their ability to pay.”