Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order Wednesday to address hospital staffing during the rise in adult and pediatric cases and hospitalizations involving respiratory illnesses, including the flu, COVID-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). But the moves should have been made sooner, say associations representing nurses and hospital systems.
Brown says the order will give hospitals “additional flexibility to ensure there are enough health care workers to meet current needs, allow them to draw on a pool of medical volunteer nurses and doctors, and take other steps to provide care to patients.”
Brown’s office also announced that the Oregon Health Authority is working on supplemental nurse staffing contracts of up to $25 million to address what it calls “critical workforce shortages.”
“Our health care workers––our nurses, doctors, and hospital staff––are being pushed to their limits by this year’s combination of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 hospitalizations,” said Brown said in a statement. “As they do everything they can to keep Oregonians healthy and safe, we must all do our part to help them. Our health care workers are working around the clock to protect the people most vulnerable to severe respiratory illnesses––including our young children and seniors.”
Oregon nurses, hospital associations respond critically
The Oregon Nurses Association responded to Brown’s executive order. They say they agree there is a crisis, but called Brown’s response “embarrassingly late” and lacking in solution-driven directives.
“It opens the state’s coffers to wealthy hospital systems which have billions of dollars in cash reserves and heaps more stress on frontline health care providers who are already buckling under the pressure of these recurring surges,” ONA said in a statement.
The organization claims many hospitals ignore state hospital staffing law and says that is contributing to the staffing crisis.
The Oregon Association of Hospital and Health Systems also welcomed the news, but said staffing issues were needed to be addressed long ago.
“But the reality is Oregon hospitals need the ability to adjust their staffing all of the time, not just during a surge that has intensified our capacity crisis,” OAHHS said in a statement. “We have critically ill children in adult units and boarding in Emergency Departments who should be in pediatric intensive care units in Portland, but there are few available beds. We’ve been saying it for more than two years: our system is failing. The unfortunate position we find ourselves in today could have been prevented, and it wasn’t.”