Oregon hospital requests 30 RNs from National Guard amid staffing crisis

Oregon State Hospital, a psychiatric facility with a main campus in Salem and a smaller satellite campus in Junction City, has asked for 30 registered nurses from the National Guard as its staffing shortage intensifies, according to The Oregonian.

Hospital spokesperson Rebeka Gipson-King told the newspaper May 27 that the request for National Guard personnel had been received, and the facility's request included a preference for workers with behavioral health experience. She said the National Guard nurses would be assigned to 10-hour or 10-and-a-half-hour shifts four days a week. As of the afternoon of May 27, she had not heard whether the request was approved.

The request for National Guard personnel comes as the hospital has been rolling out multiple initiatives to reduce workforce strain while staff members are on leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Oregon State Hospital's emergency efforts have included redeploying staff to units with the most patient care needs, delaying several organizational improvement initiatives, expediting hiring and onboarding for relief positions, and hiring as many contract agency nurses as possible.

The hospital also has discussed the possible deployment of managers with its parent agency, the Oregon Health Authority. The hospital said this week that it plans to pull in managers from around the authority and other state agencies for temporary staffing, according to The Oregonian.

The newspaper also reported that a federal judge approved administrators' request for a pause on admissions for the week — a request the hospital attributed to not having room for new patients quickly enough.

But Kim Thoma, an administrative specialist and president of the SEIU Local 503 union, which represents hospital employees, told the newspaper there is concern over possible delays with external contractors.

Employees in recent months have also expressed concerns about work conditions and being put in potentially unsafe situations and said they are exhausted from working extended hours, according to The Oregonian

Ms. Gipson-King told Becker's May 28 that 412 staff are using some form of COVID-19 leave at greater than one-fourth time, including 283 direct care staff and 129 staff across other hospital areas. She said 284 staff are using some form of COVID-19 leave at less than one-fourth of the time. Overall, 696 staff are using COVID-19 leave.

The hospital has a total workforce of more than 2,300, which includes nurses, contract staff and others in Salem and Junction City. 

Read the full article in The Oregonian here

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