Providence plans service reductions ahead of nurses strike

Providence is preparing for a reduction in services ahead of planned strikes by members of the Oregon Nurses Association at Providence Portland Medical Center, Providence Seaside Hospital, and Providence Home Health and Hospice, according to a June 14 news release from the Renton, Wash.-based system.

The union represents about 1,800 nurses and clinicians at Providence Portland Medical Center, Providence Seaside Hospital, and Providence Home Health and Hospice. 

Union members voted to authorize strikes in late May and early June. After a round of bargaining this month, ONA issued strike notices, and management focused on preparations for the work stoppage, the health system said.

Providence bargaining teams expect to return to the bargaining table after the strike, which is slated to last five days and begin June 19. 

The health system said its strike preparations include stopping all surgeries, except for life-and-death emergency ones, at Providence Portland. Other preparations at Providence Portland include closing the neonatal intensive care unit; moving or rescheduling scheduled baby deliveries, in many cases; and evaluating and significantly reducing patient transfers from other hospitals.

At Providence Seaside, all elective surgeries have been rescheduled, and admissions of patients needing step-down care have been stopped, Providence said.

Additionally, visits to home health and hospice patients and their loved ones will continue with the help of replacement workers, and new patients will be accepted "as the team is able while still maintaining care of existing patients, with a special focus of helping patients discharging from hospitals and transitioning home," Providence said.

Nurses and clinicians began contract negotiations with management in fall 2022. 

During negotiations, Providence teams offered a combined $35 million total package for the first year of the three contracts, the health system said. This includes double-digit increases on existing salaries at Providence Portland and Providence Seaside in the first year.

The union pushed back in a news release shared with Becker's, saying that Providence "continues to focus exclusively on wages when, in fact, nurses and clinicians are focused on improving patient care, addressing historic unsafe staffing levels throughout the Providence system, and addressing serious patient concerns."

The union contends Providence refuses to address short staffing and patient safety concerns in the hospitals. The ONA said it also wants Providence to address "the excessive caseload requirements placed on nurses and clinicians working in patient homes."

Additionally, the ONA has expressed concerns about paid time off and wants pay for the most experienced nurses to be comparable to Oregon Health & Science University.

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