The Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems emerged from months of negotiations March 28 with an agreement on a staffing ratio bill before the Legislature and a host of other issues.
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The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a statewide shortage of nurses and other hospital staff that has impacted patient care and hospitals’ financial results.
But late Tuesday, the two groups, along with Service Employees International Union Local 49 and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals jointly announced success in reaching an agreement on staffing issues across a range of hospital occupations, which they said would establish “first-in-the-nation nurse-to-patient ratios in state statute, for a wide range of hospital settings, including emergency departments, intensive care units, labor and delivery units, operating rooms, and others.”
Tamie Cline, president of the ONA board of directors, said the agreement could be a national model. “Simply put, this legislation, once passed, will be the high-water mark for safe staffing across the country, and will also help to significantly address the staffing crisis facing nurses and patients here in Oregon,” Cline said.
The agreements are included in a package of three bills, House Bills 2697 and 2742 and Senate Bill 1079, that also include enforceable ratios for nursing assistants and establish staffing committees for a variety of other hospital jobs.
“Techs like respiratory therapists, imaging, dietary and environmental services workers and many others will now have a voice in safe patient care,” said Meg Niemi, SEIU Local 49 president. “And our union is excited to be the first in the nation with a ratio for certified nursing assistants in hospitals.”
The agreement between the groups includes $40 million in new spending on training and education to alleviate the shortage of nurses and other staff.
“We’re grateful for the collective efforts that led to this agreement,” said Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of OAHHS, which represents Oregon’s 60 hospitals. “The bill supports our hardworking frontline staff and reduces many of the administrative burdens hospitals currently face. We’re also thankful for labor’s support and commitment to the package of bills that will help protect access to care in our communities.”