Oregon Nurses Association: Over 80 nurses to leave Asante after Oct. 18 deadline

MEDFORD, Ore. — “About 81 of our ONA members will not be at the bedside any more after October 18th,” said Oregon Nurses Association Representative Susan Bruce.

She says this number is just at Asante Rogue Regional medical center. “That’s about 8 percent of the staff,” said Bruce. “81 members is already horrifying. That’s just as of Tuesday, so that number could go up. ” But that number, 81 of about 1,000 could also go down.

When the October 18th deadline comes for hospital workers to be fully vaccinated, health care systems across the state will have to face the reality of the state’s mandate. Asante says it’s working to get its staff 100 percent vaccinated. “They’re not willing to allow any risk by having people at the bedside who are not vaccinated,” said Bruce.

As a private employer, the Medford based health system can part ways with employees for not receiving the vaccine. “It’s a very dividing subject. Its divisive for staff, it’s divisive for the community but losing nurses in a time of an incredible nursing shortage already, and the number of nurses we will lose simply from burnout with all of the things related to COVID over the past year and a half, that number is pretty significant,” said Bruce.

NBC5 News shared with viewers Thursday, Asante nurses with approved exemptions will go on leave when the state’s deadline arrives. They’re allowed to use paid time off during this time, though their job is not guaranteed upon the return.

Other Oregon health systems are taking a much tougher approach. “Peace Health up in Eugene has a very hard line stance. Their people are out on leave, they’re not going to have benefits, they can’t use any accrued vacation they have, or at least they couldn’t initially for those reasons. And that’s for approved medical or religious exemptions,” said the ONA representative.

Asante spokesperson said in an email, “Asante believes that the governor’s mandate is intended to get to 100% vaccination against COVID-19 for health care workers in the state, so we are working toward that goal as well.” She adds Asante has relocated more than 150 employees to the Rogue Valley in the past year and is using traveling nurses to fill the gaps.

The hospital is working with the OHA to maintain some of the emergency workforce sent to our area, when the deadline does come. At this time, Asante is trying to work with FEMA,  the national guard and traveling nurses to possibly extend their contracts.

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Madison LaBerge
Madison LaBerge is the anchor of NBC5 News Weekends at 6 and 11. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Madison is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She loves living in the Pacific Northwest. She can't get over "how green everything is!" When Madison is not at work, she looks for new and exciting cooking recipes and explores Southern Oregon. Feel free to send her story ideas or the address of your favorite Mexican food restaurant!