(Photo courtesy of Service Employees International Union Local 49)
The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), Service Employees International Union Local 49 (SEIU) and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) have reached consensus on a series of amendments to HB 2697. These amendments will make significant, historic advances towards safe hospital staffing and quality patient care throughout the state and, if passed by the Oregon Legislature, will put Oregon at the forefront of hospital staffing laws in the nation. In addition to HB 2697, the coalition has agreed on a package of legislation that builds a pipeline of health care workers, addresses hospital capacity and discharge challenges, and improves the state’s cost growth target to support investment in frontline caregivers.
The collective package is the result of months of negotiations between the interested parties, at the urging of Rep. Rob Nosse (D- HD42), the main sponsor of HB 2697 and the Chair of the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care. With consensus reached, the amendments to HB 2697 and the additional components of the agreement will be shared with the Committee and forwarded to the House Ways and Means Committee no later than April 4.
Key components of the amended bill include establishing first-in-the-nation nurse to patient ratios in state statute, for a wide range of hospital settings, including emergency departments, intensive care units, labor and delivery units, operating rooms, and others. The bill also establishes committees for other hospital care providers like respiratory therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, environmental services workers and many others to create clear standards to improve staffing in the entire hospital care team.
“ONA members are truly appreciative of the passionate work our partners and members have put into this legislation,” said Tamie Cline, RN, president of the ONA Board of Directors. “This legislation is truly historic; Oregon will become the first state in the nation to have nurse-to-patient ratios codified in state statute. Simply put, this legislation, once passed, will be the high-water mark for safe staffing across the country, and will also help to significantly address the staffing crisis facing nurses and patients here in Oregon.”
“We are very excited about the opportunities for all the workers who make up the care team to have a clear and resounding voice in hospital staffing. New committees for techs like respiratory therapists, imaging, dietary and environmental services workers and many others will now have a voice in safe patient care,” said Meg Niemi, SEIU Local 49 president. “And our union is excited to be the first in the nation with a ratio for certified nursing assistants in hospitals. This is one step in the workforce transformation that is needed, and we look forward to working together to create more opportunities.”
“We are excited to be part of such a dynamic coalition fighting to see real changes across Oregon’s health system,” says OFNHP President Jonathon Baker. “This is an essential step towards fixing our staffing crisis, and we are grateful to those who collaborated with us to help ensure this groundbreaking piece of legislation can become law.”
“We’re grateful for the collective efforts that led to this agreement,” said Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of OAHHS. “The bill supports our hardworking frontline staff and reduces many of the administrative burdens hospitals currently face. We’re also thankful for labor’s support and commitment to the package of bills that will help protect access to care in our communities.”
New enforcement mechanisms are also included in the amended bill language.
“Our coalition is urging legislators to pass this historic legislation immediately and in parallel with the broader package,” said Baker.
“We look forward to working together to improve other aspects of the health care workforce including increasing the number of educators and clinical spots to bring more people into the health care profession, as well as making sure that improvements can be sustained through hospital financials,” said Niemi. “By working together, we believe we will continue to improve the working conditions for our frontline staff, bring more people into rewarding professional and sustain and improve our health care system for Oregonians.”
Amendments to HB 2697 and the related package of policy and funding agreements have been detailed in a letter to Oregon legislators, which has been attached to this release for reference.
About SEIU Local 49:
SEIU Local 49 represents more than 15,000 healthcare and building service workers, including licensed practical nurses (LPN’s), certified nursing assistants, professional and technical workers, pharmacists, dietary aides, and housekeepers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. We are a member of Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers.