Oregon governor signs hospital staffing law

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek has signed a minimum nurse staffing mandate for hospitals.

Ms. Kotek signed the mandate Aug. 16 during a ceremonial bill signing. The signing was designed to enact the staffing standards, as well as to celebrate a bill to strengthen access to abortion access and gender-affirming healthcare, according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle.

"The new laws will further Oregon's path to building a more equitable healthcare system that centers patients and supports workers and providers," the governor wrote on her Facebook page.

House Bill 2697 establishes enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios in state statute, for various hospital settings, as well as committees for other hospital workers.

Oregon already has nurse-to-patient ratios, which are determined by nurse staffing committees set up under previous laws, and the new legislation creates new staffing committees within hospitals for different job classifications, according to the Portland Tribune. The newspaper reported that this is the first time for a state to write into law specified nurse-to-patient ratios in 12 types of hospital units.

The new legislation requires hospitals to establish staffing committees for professional and technical staff and service staff, with specific criteria. This is in addition to a nurse staffing committee. It also prescribes methods for resolving disputes related to staffing plans; establishes minimum nurse-to-patient staffing ratios for direct care registered nurses, with ratios varying based on unit; and provides exceptions. 

Additionally, it imposes penalties for hospitals that don't comply with staffing plans, and it provides a mechanism for hospital employees or their representatives to seek enforcement of meal breaks and rest periods from the Bureau of Labor and Industries. 

The bill comes after Oregon labor unions and the state hospital association reached consensus on a series of amendments to proposed staffing legislation. 

Rulemaking is set to begin Sept. 1, with ratios scheduled to take effect June 1, 2024.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:17 a.m. CDT on Aug. 16.


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