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St. Charles Bend nurses rally as contract talks continue


Dozens of St. Charles Bend nurses, health care workers and community members rallied Wednesday at a busy northeast Bend intersection to raise community awareness of problems they say still exist with staffing at the hospital, as negotiations for a new contract continue.

They crowded all four corners of Revere Avenue and Third Street with signs showing messages such as, “Safe staffing saves lives.”

NewsChannel 21 first reported here that a year ago, the Oregon Health Authority found about 100 staffing violations at the hospital.

Nurses said that since then, hospital management has been all talk and no action. They said they’re seeing a lot of the same problems as last year: not enough staff.

Officials with the Oregon Nurses Association said nurses are still missing their breaks, doubling up on patients and having to fill in for nurses in hospital units with different specializations.

The cost of all these issues, they said, is the quality of patient care.

Neysa Larson, a registered nurse at the hospital, said management has been all talk and no action, so now they’re asking for the community’s help to inspire change.

“People are really fed up. They want (St. Charles) to do better. They want them to be held accountable, we want to hold ourselves accountable,” Larson said. “I feel like we have not been engaged in trying to make some of these healthier changes, and it’s kind of fallen upon deaf ears.”

These complaints are not going unnoticed.

St. Charles Bend officials said they are actively negotiating with the ONA to create a new collective bargaining agreement. Nurses are working without a contract a present as the talks.

“We have several proposals that have gone back and forth,” said Debbie Robinson, the hospital’s chief nursing officer. “Many of them are really focused on how do we solve issues and make ourselves better so we can better serve the community.”

Larson, who is on the bargaining committee, said another problem is that management is making changes without involving nurses in the process.

“I think that they could do better,” she said. “I think that they could do better to at least open up even more about things, to have better collaborations, to even hear nurses’ voices.”

Nurses at the rally also stressed it’s not just about them. They said there’s not enough staff from top to bottom, so they’re asking for more support for the entire health care team.

“If we don’t have a housekeeper to clean beds, your loved one may sit in the recovery room for three hours because we don’t have enough housekeepers,” Larson said. “They can go down to a motel and get paid better than at St. Charles, which is in the business of health.”

As contract talks continue, more than 750 nurses at the hospital signed a petition calling on administrators to make changes that better the lives of everyone who works at the hospital.

The opinions on how to solve these problems may be different, but the message from all sides is that health care workers want to give patients and their loved ones the best care possible, even if those changes don’t happen overnight.

“We both have a shared goal of safe patient care delivery,” Robinson said. “Us working together in getting a contract is focused solely on our patients and our care delivery.”

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