Local nurses sign petition against St. Charles demanding safe staffing, COVID protection


More than 160 Bend-area health care providers have signed a petition calling on St. Charles executives “to provide adequate PPE and oversight, COVID-19 testing, sick leave and safe staffing for frontline health care workers,” according to the Oregon Nurses Association.

The union, which represents nearly 1,000 nurses at St. Charles in Bend, said they are also “standing up after St. Charles executives inaccurately and inappropriately accused health care providers of spreading COVID-19.”

“In April, St. Charles leaders plastered the hallways with signs and quotes calling us ‘heroes.’ Now, when staffing levels are low, they are blaming us for bringing COVID-19 to the workplace,” said local nurse Corey Sattler, an ONA bargaining unit leader at St. Charles in Bend. “They are using this as an excuse to refuse to provide us clear support, testing, and equipment.

“We are under tremendous stress every single day. We are reaching levels of burnout which are not only dangerous to us, but to the community we serve,” Sattler said. “St. Charles’ answer is to blame us, then remove our protections in order to maintain their profits. It’s inexcusable. It’s a slap in the face to each and every nurse risking their lives every day for our patients.”

The ONA said the nurses delivered the petition to St. Charles executives on Wednesday after getting the signatures in less than 48 hours.

According to the ONA, the staff at St. Charles is being asked to reuse single-use masks beyond safety recommendations and have been asked to “mask and monitor” after COVID exposures instead of getting tested.

The petition also said the hospital was pushing nurses to return from quarantine early.

The Oregon Nurses Association said in a release that nearly 70 percent of health care workers with COVID-19 work in direct patient care.

“Yet, last week St. Charles executives emailed caregivers claiming there were no cases of patient to provider transmission and blaming local caregivers for hospital-based COVID-19 cases,” according to the release.

“Caregivers are contracting COVID-19 at work because St. Charles is failing to protect them. Nurses are working on the frontlines of a pandemic. When nurses don’t have proper safety equipment or support; they will get sick,” said ONA spokesman Kevin Mealy. “St. Charles needs to admit its mistake, and apologize to the frontline nurses and caregivers who are risking their own safety to save lives.

“Then St. Charles needs to get to work to support nurses by providing the PPE, testing, staffing and sick leave that will help keep them safe so they can continue caring for their community.”

Late Wednesday, St. Charles issued this response:

“Our top priority during this pandemic is to keep our devoted caregivers and our patients safe,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “Our teams have worked hard to ensure our caregivers have access to an adequate supply of personal protective equipment and adhere to best practices for infection prevention, and the success of those efforts is underscored by the caregiver exposure tracking data we keep.

“Since March, we have tested more than 640 caregivers for COVID-19, 54 of whom have tested positive.

“With roughly 4,500 caregivers, that means 1.2 percent of our workforce has contracted the virus, a number that is on par with what we’re seeing in our communities.

“It’s also noteworthy that, for every positive case, we conduct a follow-up investigation to determine the source of exposure and with rare exception, have found these to be community-acquired.

“Put another way, in spite of caring for patients with COVID 19, our caregivers are not commonly contracting the virus in our facilities.”

You can read the email in question below with highlighting added by ONA.


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