On the Picket Line

Oregon nurses picket hospital over staffing crisis

By Louise Goodman
May 15, 2023

BEND, Oregon — More than 600 nurses and supporters joined a spirited informational picket line outside St. Charles Bend Hospital here April 24. The 900 nurses have been working without a contract since Dec. 31.

The Oregon Nurses Association says the key issues are an ongoing staffing crisis, the need to improve safety and to ensure patients access to health care. Since 2018, nearly 60% of nurses at St. Charles have resigned, leaving more than 200 jobs vacant.

Hundreds of handmade signs were created at two picket painting parties, including “Unsafe staffing hurts patients,” “Nurses deserve breaks,” and “Patients before profits.”

“This has been going on for many years. We have been crying out for help, and administrators have been putting profits over patients,” Oregon Nurses Association President Tamie Cline told the rally. “We will be silent no more.”

Neysa Larson, a recovery-room nurse, unit steward and member of the union negotiating committee, told the Militant nurses are pressed to work 12-hour shifts, sometimes with no breaks, and that the hospital’s answer to the staffing shortage has been to close beds.

She said the bosses brought an economist to one of the negotiating sessions. To offset rising housing costs, he said, nurses should get married, get a roommate or move to farther-out areas with lower rents. His “suggestions” were particularly insulting to the majority female workforce, Larson said.