State Investigation Gives OHSU Clean Bill Of Health

01/07/01    Portland, Ore.

Following a two-day investigation by the Oregon Health Division, Oregon Health & Science University has received a clean bill of health with regard to patient care and staffing levels during the nursing strike. The investigation revealed "no rule violations" and determined that "no further action" was necessary by the OHD. Specifically, the health division looked at nurse-to-patient ratios and events during the first three days of the strike, qualifications of replacement nurses, and OHSU's strike-staffing plan. The investigation involved visits to eight nursing units, reviews of OHSU records, interviews with administrators, staff nurses, corporate nurses, and a patient and family member. The investigation came in response to concerns that were raised to the health division by an outside entity.

"We're pleased that the Oregon Health Division report can help Oregonians understand that patient care and satisfaction remain our highest priorities, even during a strike," said OHSU Hospital Medical Director Roy Magnusson, M.D.

Below are some specific findings listed in the Oregon Health Division report:

Nurse-to-patient ratios
Interviews and records revealed appropriate staffing throughout the initial transition days of the strike. Investigators from the OHD toured patient care areas throughout OHSU Hospital and Doernbecher Children's Hospital, including OHSU's Cardiac/Medical Intensive Care Unit, Doernbecher's Neonatal Critical Care Unit, Doernbecher's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and the Trauma/Neuro Intensive Care Unit among other units. The report noted that staffing meetings have been conducted every four hours since the beginning of the strike to assess staffing needs and promote a continuity of patient care.

Replacement nurse qualifications
A review of personnel records for approximately 15 percent of replacement nurses revealed that all nurses had valid Oregon licenses. Interviews revealed that when OHSU administration discovered a corporate nurse's Oregon license had expired, the employee was sent home prior to providing patient care and not scheduled to work until an updated license was issued. According to employee records, experience of the replacement nurses ranges from four to 23 years. The replacement nurses' areas of expertise include intravenous therapy, pediatric intensive care, medical-surgical nursing, intensive care, coronary care and emergency/trauma nursing. Additionally OHSU support staff were available seven days a week, 24 hours a day for replacement nurses requiring assistance.

"An interview with a patient and his/her spouse revealed that they were favorably impressed with the skills of the corporate nurses they had encountered and the quality of care he/she had received since the onset of the work stoppage on 12/17/01," according to an excerpt from the report.