BEND, OR -- Three St. Charles Bend nurses filed separate unfair labor practice claims against the hospital, last week. The allegations are now under investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. Kevin Mealy, with the Oregon Nurses Association says, "In two cases, we have nurses who shared with their managers that they had patient safety concerns, and then were later targeted for discipline in an attempt to threaten and intimidate them from doing that again." He tells KBND News, "They felt their unit, at the time, was not properly staffed to deal with the amount of patients or the acuity of patients. They were later taken aside and disciplined for speaking up; and it’s clear that was in direct connection, that they did speak up for safety and that’s why they were being disciplined." In the third case, he says, "One nurse was retaliated against for exercising their legal right to support their union on their personal time."
According to Mealy, Registered Nurses are required to report patient safety and inadequate staffing concerns, "They have a responsibility to the Oregon State Board of Nursing, and they have a professional and ethical responsibility to speak up when they have safety concerns that could jeopardize their own personal license." The claims come amid ongoing labor negotiations. Bend nurses have been working under an expired contract for nearly six months. The next round of federal mediation is scheduled for Thursday. Mealy says one issue in the talks involves creating a process for nurses to report patient safety and staffing concerns, "If there is a clear process within the contract then it seems to take away some of the problems with, ‘what should we do next?’ or, ‘is it appropriate to retaliate?’ when the answer is obviously no."
Mealy says the last time ONA nurses filed an unfair labor practices complaint against St. Charles was in 2016, after the hospital required nurses to wear a face mask if they hadn't gotten a flu shot.