Samaritan’s Nurses Picket, Report Staff Shortages

Registered nurses at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center want the public to know about staffing deficiencies at the hospital, so they conducted an informational picket Friday afternoon, hoping to raise awareness.

Kevin Mealy, a spokesman for the Oregon Nurses Association, or ONA, disclosed that staffing shortages in Samaritan’s operating room are frequent, and that operating room nurses are routinely being asked to work more than 50 hours a week. Mealy also reports that the hospital has a so called “buddy” system that forces nurses to care for twice as many patients as recommended.

Longstanding studies have shown that overextending nurses adversely effects outcomes for patients. The National Center for Biotechnology Information is a branch of the National Institutes of Health, and they state flatly state that patient mortality is linked to staffing.

At 5 pm, there were about 120 picketers, the action was scheduled to run from 4 to 7 pm.

The nurses have been working without a contract since June 30, and ONA is the union representing them in their contract negotiations. Also, this is not the first time Samaritan’s nurses have tried to get the hospital to do something about workloads and scheduling during contract negotiations. It has come up before.

Mealy says there is no current plan to strike, and hopes there won’t be any need to. However, a press release from ONA says, “Samaritan Health Services has consistently refused to respond to basic information requests, cancelled meetings with little notice, and failed to respond to nurses’ primary proposals to improve staffing and patient safety, keep health care affordable and ensure equal pay for equal work.”

Negotiators from ONA and Samaritan are scheduled to meet on Monday. ONA says they represent almost 500 registered nurses at Samaritan Regional Medical Center.

By Andy Thompson