Health & Wellness, Springfield

PeaceHealth nurses choose not to strike, yet

Home care and hospice nurses are waiting until after the negotiation meeting with PeaceHealth this week to decide if striking is their best option.

SPRINGFIELD –  PeaceHealth is under scrutiny again regarding allegations of unfair wages and difficulty retaining staff within its home care and hospice sectors.

Although the strikes in April 2023 were to advocate for the same two issues, it was concerning nurses who worked at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) representatives are still not content with how PeaceHealth is treating its employees, but this time it’s about nurses who work outside the hospital.

According to ONA, “Home health and hospice nurses have been fighting for a fair contract to address record turnover and job vacancies at PeaceHealth’s home health and hospice agency – the region’s largest home health service provider. PeaceHealth continues to low-ball home care nurses with inequitable compensation offers. PeaceHealth is offering its home care nurses less than nurses at similar home health agencies and significantly less than PeaceHealth pays local hospital nurses – despite previously paying both home care and hospital nurses equally.”

On Dec. 29, chair of the executive committee for Sacred Heart Home Care services Jo Turner, who has been a hospice nurse at PeaceHealth for 11 years, announced that ONA has decided not to strike at this time – even though the majority of nurses voted to strike. She insinuated that a strike may come depending on how the Jan. 5 negotiation meeting goes. Check online at for updates around the negotiations.

“We are hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst. We’re giving PeaceHealth another chance to come to the table with a fair and decent contract,” Turner said. “Going out on strike is not a decision nurses take lightly – and we are not calling for a strike, yet, because deep in our hearts, we know that our patients come first. But if PeaceHealth leaves us no other option than to strike, then that’s something that we must do.”

According to Turner, ONA has been negotiating with PeaceHealth for over a year now. She cited Dec. 12, 2022 as the origin of these conversations, while Kevyn Paul, vice chair of the Sacred Heart Medical Center bargaining unit and vice chair of the ONA executive committee at PeaceHealth RiverBend, said February 2023 is when negotiations began. PeaceHealth would not address the length of time of this negotiation process, but it did provide a written statement:

“Any potential strike by our Home Care nurses would not involve staff at our hospitals or clinics. PeaceHealth has successfully negotiated four other long-term union contracts (in 2023) in the Oregon network, representing nearly 3,000 caregivers in Lane County. We remain hopeful an agreement can be reached with our ONA-represented Home Care nurses so they can also benefit from the improvements a new contract will provide.”

Although the decision was ultimately not to strike, that didn’t stop ONA representatives and allies from speaking out against PeaceHealth, saying the organization needs a “wake up call.”

“I’ve seen health care and PeaceHealth change dramatically from a local no-profit and prioritize and valued caregivers in our community to a corporation that would rather make a buck than pay for an extra hour or so for a nurse to stay with a dying patient just to make them comfortable or spend more time with a patient that needs to go back out into the community,” Turner said. “PeaceHealth isn’t run by nuns anymore, and it isn’t run by the people in the community. It’s run by corporate executives in Washington who value their paychecks more than our patients.”

Government officials like congresswoman Val Hoyle and representative Paul Holvey were also in attendance at ONA’s press conference on Dec. 29 to issue statements of support for ONA and expressing frustrations with PeaceHealth.

“My mother just went into hospice, and she’s lucky enough to be able to have home health care nurses come into her home so that she can be comfortable and die with dignity. What this does when we have home health care nurses is: It saves our system money because you don’t have someone in a hospital with a higher level of care, and it also allows someone to die in their own home,” Hoyle said. “Why we are telling these nurses who do this work under conditions that can be very, very chaotic, that they should be paid less is beyond me.”

Hoyle said she called PeaceHealth officials on Dec. 28 to emphasize that she feels these ONA nurses “have value,” saying these nurses should be treated with respect so they don’t have to strike.

Heather Herbert began working as a nurse at RiverBend 10 years ago, and she has worked in hospice care for the last four years. She emphasized the differences between caring for patients in their homes versus in hospitals, notably mentioning that working alone as a guest in someone’s home doesn’t allow for a blue light to signal to coworkers that more assistance is needed and that her work aligns with emergency services, as home care nurses are on call 24 hours a day.

According to her, when emergencies came up, she used to be able to call the office and have her schedule cleared so she could be with the family who needed her assistance; another nurse would pick up her visits. She recalled an emergency which happened at the end of last December.

“A patient became delirious, unable to speak clearly or follow directions. He was at risk for falling and hurting himself or his family members. I placed a catheter, and I was there for hours adjusting his medication. I would not leave until that patient and family were comfortable with this new plan,” she said. “But we did not have staff to clear my schedule that day, and I had to see the rest of my patients – and I work with patients who are well over 100 years old. I also work with parents and their newborn babies who will not have long to live. I help parents say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ at the same time. I work with dying children. Can you imagine telling the parents of a dying child that you have to leave early because PeaceHealth is having a staffing crisis?”

Turner and Herbert both noted that many PeaceHealth nurses are leaving because they can find more adequate compensation elsewhere.

“We are like you. We have mortgages, bills, daycare. We need wage equality to keep nurses and hire new ones,” Herbert said. “Nurses cannot afford to take a pay cut to come and work here.”

According to ONA, “since PeaceHealth executives allowed local nurses’ contract to expire in April 2023, almost a quarter of care nurses have left the agency and a staggering one-third of current nurses plan to leave in the next year if PeaceHealth refuses to agree to a fair contract.”

Paul said “PeaceHealth’s self-inflicted nurse exodus is already impacting patients’ care.”

“We are not asking for more or special treatment – just what we have always had and the standard that all other PeaceHealth hospitals have had in Washington and Oregon,” Herbert said. “No one likes to talk about my job or think about their mom or spouse or child dying. But it’s inevitable for everyone, and when it comes time for you, you’re going to want a good hospice nurse – and that is why I voted to strike.”



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos