PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of nurses are currently gathered at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center to draw attention to the nurse staffing crisis taking place at the hospital.
The nurses, represented by the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), are joined by elected leaders, worker advocates and community allies.
The nurses say the gathering is about Providence getting more staff and better health care, and that the raise they were offered isn’t going to cut it.
“We’d love to see staffing language written into our contract that supports rest periods. Everybody feels better after a break. You can’t be 100% if you haven’t eaten or been able to take a minute,” said Angela Knapp, a nurse at St. Vincent.
Brittany Porterfield, a nurse at a Providence hospital in Milwaukie, said that their are similar issues in the facility that she works in.
“I’ve had many staff members not only tell me they feel unsafe coming to work and that they’re risking their license every day because they’re not providing the care they feel comfortable giving,” Porterfield said.
These frontline workers are asking Providence for:
- Stronger patient safety standards to reduce future COVID-19 outbreaks and ensure the highest standards of care for all Oregonians.
- Safe nurse staffing to ensure high-quality care and patient access.
- Affordable health care and paid leave so frontline nurses can seek care after COVID-19 exposures and afford health care for their own families.
- A fair compensation package that allows hospitals to recruit and retain the skilled frontline caregivers they say our communities need to stay healthy and safe.
Jennifer Burrows, chief executive at Providence St. Vincent, says that more money has been put on the table.
“We’ve made a really strong offer of 9.3% pay increase in the first year as a recognition to make sure our team of nurses is paid fairly,” she said.
However, the increase isn’t enough for some nurses.
“I believe the 9% just gets us to catch up to what we are now. And then over the time between inflation and rising labor costs and those competitive rates, they’re gonna keep going up,” Porterfield said.
The health care aspect is one of the big points of contention for Knapp.
“I’ve never paid deductibles like I have while working here,” Knapp said. “But i just wish we could provide affordable healthcare for our nurses as well because I would love to not worry about my family when I’m taking care of for yours.”
Both sides meet again on Thursday, and leaders say that they are willing to compromise.
“There is one area where we recognize we may need to make some changes, but we need to talk some of this out at the bargaining table,” Burrows said.
While the nurses’ contract is up at St. Vincent, it is possible that there will be more nurses picketing across the state, as an additional five contracts will expire this year.