'Injuries are pretty common here': Oregon hospital employees see spike in work-related injuries

Employee injuries from patient-related incidents in 2018 rose to a five-year high at Oregon State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Salem, amid ongoing concerns about staffing levels, according to the Statesman Journal.

Employees filed 307 workers' compensation claims for injuries from patient-related incidents, nearly a twofold increase since 2017, according to the Statesman Journal's analysis. State data also show the hospital needs 102 more full-time employees to achieve optimal conditions in all units for a 24-hour period. Staff have worked overtime and double shifts to fill the gap.

The hospital is facing pressure to admit more "aid and assist" patients sent to the facility under court order to improve their mental health before facing criminal trial. A bed shortage has made it difficult to admit enough patients by the court-ordered deadline, but the hospital's number of "aid and assist" patients still rose dramatically in mid-2018.

"Unfortunately, injuries are pretty common here," Kimberly Thoma, a mental health technician at the hospital, told the Statesman Journal. Employees and administrators partly blame the rise in "aid and assist" patients for the increased violence.

The hospital is taking steps to combat the problems, but the authorization for increased staffing lies with state policymakers. The hospital has pushed for increased funding for staff positions in the past, but the proposals have not made it into the state's budget.

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