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Addressing Ongoing Staffing Crisis

Nurses File Strike Notice to Combat Care Delays

ONA nurses and supporters held an informational picket outside PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center June 7 to raise community awareness about unsafe staffing at PeaceHealth hospitals. Photo Courtesy of ONA

Local home health and hospice nurses declared their intent to strike Feb. 1 to protect community health and safety and address the ongoing staffing crisis at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services. The two-week strike will begin Thursday, Feb. 1 at 7 a.m. and conclude Wednesday, Feb. 14 at 7 a.m. The more than 90 registered nurses at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike in December following nearly a year of unsuccessful contract negotiations with PeaceHealth executives including 40 bargaining sessions.

On Jan. 19, nurses delivered a strike notice to PeaceHealth executives informing them of the strike date. By providing advance notice, nurses are helping ensure current patients’ care can be addressed during the strike as PeaceHealth may need to transfer patients' care to other home care agencies. It also gives PeaceHealth executives ample time to join nurses at the bargaining table and reach a fair agreement to prevent a strike.

Frontline nurses had planned to meet with PeaceHealth’s executives and a federal mediator Jan. 23 in a good-faith effort to try to reach a fair contract agreement and prevent a strike.

Earlier this afternoon, PeaceHealth executives chose to cancel nurses’ final scheduled negotiation date.

Nurses at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services are represented by the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA). “Nurses are ready to do what it takes to reach a fair agreement with PeaceHealth,” said Jo Turner, an ONA member and hospice nurse at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services. "All we’re asking for is dignity, respect, and equal pay for the essential care we provide to vulnerable, home-bound patients and their families every day. Our patients and our community suffer when their caregivers are ignored, exploited, and underpaid by PeaceHealth’s millionaire executives. We are ready to bargain and ready to strike to win justice for our coworkers, our patients and our community."

Nearly a quarter of home care nurses have left the agency since PeaceHealth executives allowed nurses’ contract to expire in April 2023. Another third of home care nurses have said they plan to leave this year if PeaceHealth refuses to agree to a fair contract. 

ONA nurses at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services play an essential, but often unseen, role in their community. They deliver hospital-quality care to patients’ homes—providing a critical lifeline to sick and dying individuals and their families. They care for everyone from newborns to centenarians, keeping them out of expensive hospital beds and helping them heal after traumatic injuries or illnesses. They also deliver expert care, support and guidance when patients and their families transition into the final stages of life.

Despite their essential work, PeaceHealth continues to low-ball local home care nurses with inequitable compensation offers during bargaining. The compensation PeaceHealth has offered nurses is less than other similar home health agencies and less than what PeaceHealth agreed to with Sacred Heart hospital nurses in Eugene/Springfield.

PeaceHealth’s offers also fall below inflation and ignore the standard practice of compensating hospital and home care nurses equally; which is done at Providence, OHSU, PeaceHealth Peace Harbor, and was done at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services for many years including in its most recent contract agreement. 

“We need wage equality to keep nurses and hire new ones. Nurses cannot afford to take a pay cut to come work here. To recruit and retain nurses we need equality,” said Heather Herbert, an ONA member and hospice nurse at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services. “We are not asking for more or special treatment, just what we have always had and the standard that all other PeaceHealth hospitals have had in Washington and Oregon.”

ONA home care nurses first bargaining date with PeaceHealth was nearly a year ago on Feb. 14, 2023. Local nurses elected to the bargaining team have sacrificed their personal time to meet with paid PeaceHealth executives 40 times to try to reach a fair contract agreement–including several meetings with a federal mediator. Nurses have also led public rallies and informational pickets on April 10 and Nov. 29, held a community education event December 16 and held a bargaining unit wide strike vote December 27-28. All in an effort to reach a fair agreement. 

Throughout negotiations, nurses’ have made it clear their priority is to reach a fair contract agreement that addresses PeaceHealth’s nurse staffing crisis, raises safety standards, increases recruitment and retention of skilled caregivers, protects pay equity and ensures all Oregonians have access to safe, affordable and accessible home health care. Community members can visit now to learn more about ongoing negotiations sign a community petition in support of the nurses and clinicians, donate to support striking nurses, and get information about the impacts of a potential strike.

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