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How OSH is managing its staffing crisis

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

​To ensure Oregon State Hospital can continue offering treatment for patients in its care, it's asking for help from managers, other state workers and the National Guard.

For the past several months, Oregon State Hospital has struggled to maintain minimal staffing levels — largely due to the pandemic. Many people are unable to work because they're taking care of loved ones or because they lost their childcare. In recent weeks, about 33 percent of the hospital's Nursing staff have been out on COVID-related leave.

“I am so grateful for the support and collaboration we've received, and I appreciate the dedication OSH staff continue to show patients — and each other — during this challenging time," said OSH Superintendent Dolly Matteucci.

Matteucci has OSH managers and supervisors across the hospital taking weekend shifts on the Salem Campus units between now and July 4. All OSH staff have been encouraged to lend a hand. 

At the same time, Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen is asking for agency managers to volunteer to take emergency assignments at the hospital, and the Department of Administrative Services sent his request to managers at all other state agencies.

OSH Chief Nursing Officer Nikki Mobley says the extra help will help both patients and staff.  

“The quality of care we aspire to provide is being compromised because of limited resources," she said. “The additional staff will allow us to improve the level of active treatment patients receive."

Call for help

Matteucci said those who volunteer for an emergency assignment at the hospital will receive a robust, four-week training to learn about hospital operations and basic caregiving duties. Afterward, a lead registered nurse will assign them tasks that match their skills. Duties will include serving meals, escorting patients to a variety of treatment activities, and working with hospital staff to provide activities on the unit. The volunteers will work under the supervision of experienced nursing staff.

By having others help with basic tasks, Mobley said OSH staff can provide patients with the in-depth care and treatment they need and deserve.

“The resources to do that are far beyond what we have," she said. “Patients are definitely frustrated. We don't want to be in this situation."

Staffing struggles

The hospital has taken many steps to bolster staffing levels — such as implementing an emergency staffing plan, deploying people from throughout the hospital to work on the units, offering overtime pay, accelerating the hiring process, hiring temporary workers, and signing additional contracts for agency staff.

And it's not enough.

Mobley said she feels privileged to serve some of Oregon's most vulnerable, mentally ill citizens. They deserve to receive timely and quality treatment so they can get well. To do that, the hospital needs additional resources.  

“I feel very strongly that we have a core of really incredible and committed staff who have carried the load," Mobley said about the staffing crisis. “We need to bring them support and relief."  



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