Oregon hospitals, union at odds over proposed nurse staffing legislation

Oregon lawmakers will consider nurse staffing legislation this session that is opposed by hospitals but backed by the state's largest nurses union, the Oregon Capital Chronicle reported Jan. 18. 

House Bill 2697, which is sponsored by two state senators and two state representatives, would require hospitals to establish staffing committees for technical staff and service workers. It would also require hospitals to set minimum standards for staffing plans for direct care registered nurses. Minimum standards would vary by unit. For example, the proposed legislation requires hospitals to ensure a direct care registered nurse is assigned to no more than one patient in the operating room, and in an oncology unit, no more than four patients.

The Oregon Health Authority would enforce staffing plans for nurses, with fines for hospitals that fail to adopt or to comply with staffing plans. 

The Oregon Nurses Association, which represents about 15,000 nurses, supports minimum staffing standards in hospital units.

"We are wanting Oregonians to know that when they walk into the door, they are having way less turnover and therefore experienced care teams at their side who are not burned out, who do not feel unsafe," Paige Spence, director of government relations for the Oregon Nurses Association, said, according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle. "The ultimate goal here is improving patient care and patient knowledge that they are able to get better outcomes."

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, in a statement to the newspaper, said it opposes staffing standards in state law and instead favors looking at things like state funding and incentives to hospitals that offer clinical training programs and state tax credits to nurse educators. 

"We're worried this could force some hospitals to cut services if they are unable to meet the bill's proposed staffing standards, which is a very real possibility given the nationwide health workforce shortage," Lisa Goodman, the association's vice president of communications, said, according to the Oregon Capital Chronicle. "We need a law that is clear, flexible and creates accountability."

Hospitals have proposed their own solutions during the 2023 Oregon legislative session. Read more about their proposals here

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