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News Release
Governor Tina Kotek signs Oregon's Hospital Safe Staffing Bill during a ceremonial event at the State Capitol August 15, 2024. Photo courtesy of ONA.
Governor Tina Kotek signs Oregon's Hospital Safe Staffing Bill during a ceremonial event at the State Capitol August 15, 2024. Photo courtesy of ONA.
Hospital Executives Sabotage Staffing Law, Jeopardizing Patient and Nurse Safety (Photo) - 06/05/24

(Portland, OR) -  After receiving a flood of complaints from members across the state, the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) submitted a letter to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) yesterday detailing numerous instances of hospital executives purposefully undermining Oregon’s Hospital Safe Staffing Law and worsening patient care and working conditions. The letter and subsequent complaints show clear evidence of hospitals flagrantly ignoring the law’s longstanding requirement that staffing plans be approved by staffing committees. By repudiating existing plans, submitting plans that nurses have rejected, and increasing patient assignments; hospitals are threatening nurse and healthcare workers’ well-being and increasing risks to patients.

Oregon’s Hospital Safe Staffing Law was first passed in 2001 and was revised in 2023 with bipartisan legislation (House Bill 2697) backed by healthcare unions— including ONA, Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), SEIU 49, and Oregon AFSCME—the Hospital Association of Oregon (HAO) and representatives from Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), Providence, and Salem Health. The law establishes maximum patient assignments, wall-to-wall staffing committees, and ends the “buddy break system” among other measures to improve Oregonians’ quality of care and reduce burnout and turnover of skilled frontline caregivers. 

Despite having a strong say in the legislation through the HAO and hospital and health system representatives, the new law has been met with resistance by some hospital executives who are choosing to prioritize profits over patient care. Instead of adhering to the law's safe staffing rules, executives are flagrantly flouting the law by disregarding existing safe staffing plans, submitting unapproved plans to OHA, and unilaterally adopting staffing plans that are not in compliance with several statutory requirements. These unlawful staffing plans generally force fewer nurses to care for more patients—costing nurses and patients—and reversing the progress healthcare professionals have made to improve care and staff retention.  

"Enough is enough,” said Chris Rompala, an ONA board member and nurse at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Springfield, OR. “Hospital executives are playing a dangerous game with our patients’ health and safety and the wellbeing of nurses. This is the type of blatant disregard for workers that causes nurse burnout and created our staffing crisis in the first place. Oregonians' lives are on the line. Nurses and healthcare providers will not sit by while corporate executives charge patients a premium while lowering standards. Our patients and coworkers deserve better. We expect hospitals to follow the law they helped pass and we will use all means necessary to make sure corporate hospital executives are held accountable to the Oregonians they serve."

As of Wednesday, June 5, ONA has filed more than a dozen OHA complaints on behalf of our members. This is in addition to the countless number of complaints nurses across Oregon are submitting. ONA has alerted OHA Director Dr. Sejal Hathi, the Governor's office, and the Oregon senators and representatives who played a key role in passing the law about hospital executives’ efforts to sabotage it. ONA also sent a cease and desist letter to PeaceHealth CEO Liz Dunne, demanding PeaceHealth stop its deliberate violations of the law.

"The allegations from nurses that some hospitals are trying to undermine the safe staffing law are troubling. We all know that nurses work tirelessly to care for some of Oregon's most vulnerable people and this legislation, HB 2697, was passed to ensure that we could enhance patient care and allow nurses to do their jobs more effectively without burning out,” said State Representative Rob Nosse, chair of the House Health Care Committee. “First and foremost, I am committed to working with the Governor's office, legislative leaders, the Oregon Health Authority, and hospital administrators to ensure HB 2697 is fully enforced so hospitals won't violate this historic law."

ONA has pledged to “devote all available resources and employ all necessary tactics to fight back against this deliberate and coordinated attempt to undermine HB 2697” including filing complaints against any entity that seeks to undermine safe staffing. We are calling on hospital executives to comply with the law and OHA to immediately investigate all complaints submitted by ONA and our members and to hold hospitals accountable to the fullest extent of the law. 

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