Community, Health and Wellness, Springfield

Dozens of PeaceHealth beds closing, nurses laid off

Today, PeaceHealth executives announced they would be closing dozens of hospital beds at RiverBend in Springfield and University District in Eugene. An entire medical unit at RiverBend will also be shut down.

PeaceHealth executives are “canceling or declining to renew” contracts for 36 full time travel nurses at Sacred Heart — which will result in the closure of 30 beds.
PeaceHealth “is implementing fair and prudent staffing measures …. Reducing reliance on high-cost temporary workers and strengthening our local recruitment efforts takes time, and we are working to minimize impact to patients while continuing to meet the health needs of our communities,” according to Joseph Waltasti, director of communications for PeaceHealth Oregon network.
Less than two weeks ago, ONA nurses and staff, like Kevyn Paul, who is the ONA vice-chair and an emergency department nurse at the University District, rallied to advocate for safe staffing levels and protest low wages. The union represents 1,500 front-line nurses in Lane County.
“This decision puts profits ahead of the people,” Paul said. “PeaceHealth executives in Washington should be ashamed. They are cutting your care to fatten their bottom line. PeaceHealth’s CEO should have to fly down from Vancouver to look my patients in the eye and explain why they have to wait another 12 hours to get the care they need.”
To date, this means the total closed beds at both hospitals to approximately 87 out of the 455 the hospitals are licensed to run.
“Nurses have been telling PeaceHealth to invest in our community’s health care for years. We know they can afford it,” Paul said. “RiverBend has been one of the most profitable hospitals in the nation and PeaceHealth’s top executives enjoyed a 42% average annual salary increase from 2017-2021.”
PeaceHealth Sacred Heart has nearly 300 nurse vacancies.
“We are actively recruiting for a large number of nursing positions. These decisions are temporary as we hire more full-time nurses,” Waltasti said.
Organizers reached the end of their employment contract with PeaceHealth on April 15 and have now extended their bargaining period.
The team headed back into negotiations on April 20.
According to Kevin Mealy, communications manager for the ONA, during the bargaining, “no major new agreements were reached” and the current contract will, “essentially extend until one side declares an impasse.”
“It’s high time for PeaceHealth to do the right thing,” Paul said. “We need safe staffing and a fair contract agreement that invests in our community’s health care and helps us recruit and retain the frontline nurses our community counts on.”

This story was updated on April 20, at 2:55 p.m. we will continue to update as it progresses.