Oregon hospital trains 30 National Guard members to fill workforce gaps

Thirty National Guard members will begin their training at Oregon State Hospital's main campus in Salem June 7 to help reduce workforce strain while staff members are on leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a hospital statement. 

The members will assist with care on patient units through July 31. 

"It's always an honor to partner and support our fellow state agencies and fellow Oregonians," Maj. Stephen Bomar, director of public affairs, Oregon Military Department, said in a news release. 

Oregon State Hospital, a psychiatric facility that operates under the Oregon Health Authority and also has a smaller satellite campus in Junction City, has struggled in recent months to address a staffing shortfall because of absences related to the pandemic. 

Hospital spokesperson Rebeka Gipson-King said many employees are unable to work because they're taking care of loved ones or lost their childcare. About 33 percent of the hospital's nursing staff have been away from work in recent weeks. 

"Getting this help from the National Guard means the world to me and to the OSH community," Oregon State Hospital Superintendent Dolly Matteucci said in the news release. "Our patients deserve the best possible care, and with the National Guard's help, we're taking an important step in the right direction."

Oregon State Hospital asked for 30 registered nurses from the National Guard in May as its staffing shortage intensified.

Before that, the hospital exhausted other efforts to address its staffing shortage, including redeploying staff to units with the most patient care needs, offering overtime pay, expediting the hiring process, hiring temporary workers, and hiring as many contract agency nurses as possible, said Ms. Gipson-King. The hospital has also taken other efforts, such as pausing several organizational improvement initiatives so nurses can focus solely on patient care, as well as shifting to a unit-based treatment model to free up treatment staff.

Ms. Gipson-King said National Guard members will go through the training process and then work alongside seasoned staff to serve patient meals, escort patients to treatment activities, provide activities on the unit, and help patients with daily living activities.

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

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