Oregon State Hospital Needs Workers

The Oregon State Hospital in Salem has requested 30 registered nurses from the National Guard to reinforce its diminishing staff. Spokesperson for the Oregon Military Department Major Stephen Bomar said that the department, which commonly provides support to other departments, awaits the call from Governor Kate Brown to activate the military aide. 

The dire need for staffing comes as the hospital experiences a significant increase of the nursing staff members on COVID-related leave. In the last week of May, 33% of nurses were out, while in April the number of absences was 20%. The Salem hospital has capacity for 554 patients, and it was at 94% capacity according to the latest April report. 

Pat Allen, the director at the Oregon Health Authority, is currently requesting that managers of other departments volunteer at the hospital as meal servers. 

Ben Morris, spokesperson for Local 503 of Service Employees International Union, which represents about 1,800 workers, pointed out that the decrease in staffing coincides with the increase in the number of patients with acute needs. Shifts scheduled for 18 hours, which constitutes overtime, have not satisfied the current hospital’s needs. Morris said that the Legislature has an unprecedented amount of money from federal stimulus fund.  

“The Legislature needs to budget for the needs of the Oregon State hospital and they’re not close to that right now,” Morris said. 

The hospital is looking to alternate scheduling for employees currently on leave in order to gain some shift hours. In her latest report, Hospital Superintendent Dolly Matteucci said, “We understand the hardship this may cause you and your families. We have exhausted all other staffing options for the hospital’s Salem campus. This includes calling people to see if they can work different schedules, offering overtime, hiring more temporary workers, signing additional agency contracts and keeping our Emergency Staffing Plan activated at Wave 3.”   

By Joanna Rosińska