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Nurses Speak Out About Working Conditions at OR Hospital


Monday, March 28, 2022   

Burnout from the pandemic has caused a nursing shortage in some parts of the country. But at one Oregon hospital, some nurses say they're leaving because of what they see as a hostile work environment.

Union members in the Oregon Nurses Association at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria are speaking out about conditions there. One member, who has asked to remain anonymous to protect her job, said management is creating a "culture of bullying and retaliation."

Oregon Nurses Association spokesperson Kevin Mealy said the nursing staff has been called "disposable."

"This is the type of behavior you're seeing from management during COVID crisis, when nurses are papering over so many holes in the health-care system," said Mealy. "The lack of respect and appreciation for the job nurses are doing, and the skills they bring to the profession, is shocking, quite frankly."

Two grievances have been filed, one for what's described as the "bullying nature" of the workplace; the other for short-staffing in the hospital's family birthing center.

Nancee Long, director of communication for Columbia Memorial Hospital, said as in other parts of the country, nurses have left during the pandemic. But she said the hospital "has filled these vacancies with the help of competent agency nurses."

Mealy said nurses have expressed concern at the high number of agency or traveling nurses working in the hospital. He said some of the nurses, who are highly specialized, aren't necessarily able to do all the tasks nurses normally would.

"These substitute, short-time nurses don't have the same skills as the experienced nurses who left," said Mealy. "So they can only solve half the equation."

Mealy added nurses are quitting and going elsewhere, although some offered to stay on longer until the hospital found their replacements - especially in the family birthing center.

"These nurses, who are core members of the community in Astoria, still live there and drive further to get to work at a different location," said Mealy. "And they offered to stay because they don't want to see the family birth center closed for any amount of time - but they also can't stand being abused."

The Columbia Memorial Hospital spokesperson said the family birthing center is "fully staffed and has continued to meet the needs of patients through the pandemic." She said it has never closed due to low-staffing.

Disclosure: Oregon Nurses Association (AFT Local 5905) contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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