By STEFAN OSTRACH, Special Correspondent
COQUILLE, Ore. — A new state-of-the-art hospital has opened in Coos County with help from union pension funds and union labor. Coquille is located about 18 miles south of Coos Bay off the Southern Oregon coast.
“This was a win, win, win, win, win,” said Pat Smith, president of the Lane, Coos, Curry, Douglas Counties Building Trades Council (LCCDCBTC). “Union pension funds, local unions and members, the hospital board, and the community, all benefited.”
Coquille Valley Hospital’s new facility was constructed under a union project labor agreement with general contractor Neenan Archistructure, which hired unionized local subcontractors.
The AFL-CIO’s Housing Investment Trust (HIT) financed $22 million of the $30 million construction project. Union pension funds invest in HIT, which in turn finances union construction projects. It was the first project funded by the HIT to utilize Build America bonds, introduced in 2009 as part of President Obama’s economic stimulus program.
Some 225 construction jobs were created to build the 51,000 square foot structure. The new hospital has 16 beds and houses primary medical departments, including surgery, obstetrics, therapy, laboratory, a pharmacy, and an emergency room.
Nurses at the hospital are represented by the Oregon Nurses Association.
Stephanie Wiggins, chief investment officer of the AFL-CIO HIT, said they were pleased to help bring improved health care services to Oregon’s South Coast.
“We were also pleased that through our all-union construction requirement we were able to support the creation of much-needed union construction jobs during a time of unacceptably high unemployment.”
Smith, a union representative of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 5, explained that a key to getting the project was early involvement.
“The unions got in early,” he said. “We knew they wanted to build, so we asked if they had enough funds. They were looking for funding. HIT offered attractive interest rates,” he said.
From all accounts, the project went smoothly.
Hospital CEO Dennis Zielinski said everyone cooperated well and put the project first. “The hospital district’s board was happy to work with the unions. We wanted to enhance the local economy and help hard-working people who live locally.
“Patients love it,” he added. “It’s comforting, very healing.”
Amanda Taylor, community relations manager at Coquille Valley Hospital, described it as “a beautiful building.”
Wiggins of the AFL-CIO’s HIT declared an interest in other undertakings in Oregon. “We are always reviewing proposals for housing and health care projects and hope there will be more opportunities for HIT investments in the Northwest that meet our investment requirements,” she said.