PeaceHealth cuts travel nurse budget, struggles with staff shortage

A PeaceHealth hospital in Springfield, Ore., has begun phasing out travel nurses, resulting in staff shortages that have caused emergency room patients to be boarded in hallways because there aren't enough nurses on the floors to care for them, CBS affiliate KVAL reported July 1. 

The hiring of travel nurses grew during the pandemic to bolster hospital staff nationwide. But now, Vancouver, Wash.-based PeaceHealth has started cutting their pay rates, forcing the nurses to decide whether they want to leave or work for less.

"For those nurses, it occurred mid-contract,” Chris Rompala, an RN at Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend told KVAL.  “After it occurred, some of them were given less than 24 hours to make a decision to either continue with their employment, or to leave and go somewhere else."

This shortage comes just before Oregon is set to host the World Athletic Championships, expected to have tens of thousands of visitors. 

"Adding that many more people to our community is going to be very taxing on our healthcare system,” Mr. Rompala said. “I know that right now, the plan is to add about 20 travelers. But when we're fully staffed, we have about 1,400 nurses. So, adding 20 is just a drop in the bucket."

PeaceHealth, which has operations in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, told KVAL in a statement, "We have reduced our reliance on high-cost temporary workers and strengthened our local recruitment efforts. We are working to minimize any impacts to patients, including rescheduling noncritical surgeries, while continuing to meet the health needs of our communities."

Negotiations for more benefits for long-term staff have been ongoing since last August, according to the news station. 

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