Oregon nurses say unprecedented COVID-19 cases require immediate action

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon nurses are urging state leaders and hospital administrators to take action as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket.

As the Omicron variant continues to push daily COVID cases higher every day, the Oregon Nurses Association said immediate steps need to be taken to protect patients and healthcare workers.

“We knew it was going to be bad and it is,” said Lynda Pond, RN, President of the ONA Board of Directors. “Hesitation, delays and failures to act are endangering lives and threatening our patients and frontline health care workers across the state. Action must be taken now to avert the worst possible outcomes of this surge.”

The ONA called for the following actions to “protect Oregonians, slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure frontline nurses and healthcare workers are able to care for all patients during Oregon’s largest projected coronavirus surge:”

  • Implement N-95 mask requirements for frontline health care workers in facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks. Maintain N-95 mask or equivalent requirements until effective testing, treatment and mitigations steps can be taken.
  • Reinforce occupational health teams to conduct internal hospital testing, perform exposure notifications, lead internal surveillance and oversee other rapid COVID-19 interventions.
  • Limit hospital visitors and ensure health care facilities have sufficient support staff to screen visitors, check vaccination status and provide adequate masks.
  • Significantly expand COVID-19 testing, reporting and exposure notifications across the state to ensure health care workers and the public can access COVID-19 tests quickly and easily.
  • Add frontline nurses, health care workers and staff to hospital emergency response committees so operational decisions include nurses’ expertise and real-time information.
  • Increase mental health supports for frontline nurses and caregivers including investing in employee assistance programs, offering caregivers mental health days and expanding access to specialized mental health counseling for nurses through the Oregon Wellness Program.
  • Retain Oregon’s best, experienced nurses and caregivers by investing in retention bonuses and critical shift incentives. These crucial measures help properly recognize and value experienced frontline nurses and caregivers are being asked to jeopardize their own health and safety to care for sick Oregonians while being given inadequate resources and support.
  • Devote additional state support to investigate OSHA workplace safety complaints filed by nurses and caregivers.

The ONA explained the actions are critical to combating Omicron’s exponential spread and growth which could leave many Oregonians without adequate medical care.

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