Providence nurses rally outside of corporate offices to demand change

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:40 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Nurses from Providence Health and Services rallied outside of their corporate offices in Northeast Portland, demanding the hospital system cover the new paid leave tax all Oregon workers started paying this year.

Lori Curtis works in Providence’s hospice program and she’s a member of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA). She said nurses at Providence already get a form of leave covered, but they want the new 0.6% to be included in that too. Currently, ONA is negotiating this as part of a new contract for nurses.

“We blew all of our PTO during COVID, so no vacations to recuperate or take mental health days because we used it all in sick time and it’s just not enough,” Curtis says. “The front-line workers really do deserve to have that.”

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Providence sent FOX 12 a statement that reads the hospital system’s paid leave program is one of the most competitive in the market. The statement continued on:

“While the state of Oregon’s leave plan mandates a minimum amount of paid leave, all eligible employees at our Providence Oregon ministries, including those where a short-term disability program was negotiated with the union, receive up to 25 weeks of paid time away – more than double the state plan.”

Though the rally was initially about getting Providence to cover the new paid leave tax, there was more. It was a chance for nurses to speak out against bills proposed by the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health (OAHH) Care systems that the organization believes will help solve the staffing crisis.

“When we have beds in the hospital that don’t have nurses that care for them, you don’t have room to put these patients,” Curtis said.

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OAHH backed four bills that could give tax credits to nurses who choose to transition to educating potential nurses, state-funded clinical training, and expanding health care incentives to include nurses. ONA said they support this, but it’s not enough. So the union proposed House Bill 2697 which would set a minimum staffing standard and fine hospitals that don’t follow their own plan. OAHH and Providence both said they have concerns with this bill. Curtis said it’s necessary to give proper health care to Oregonians.

“If we don’t have nurses to care for the patients that need help that’s really unsafe and they’re asking nurses to care for more patients than they should be,” Curtis said.