ONA President: ‘Providence is hemorrhaging nurses right now’

Monday, June 19, 2023

By:  Elisa Haas


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Hundreds of striking nurses walked the picket line outside Providence facilities throughout Oregon on the first day of a planned 5-day strike seeking better pay and working conditions at Providence Portland Medical Center, Providence Seaside Hospital and Providence Home Health and Hospice

The nurses and clinicians were joined by a variety of elected Oregon leaders, including US Senator Jeff Merkley, State Senator Kathleen Taylor, State Reps. Rob Nosse and Travis Nelson.

The strike of 1800 nurses, part of the Oregon Nurses Association, came after 7 months of negotiations did not lead to a new deal. It’s the first nurse’s strike in Oregon in two decades.

Hundreds of nurses and clinicians filled sidewalks for blocks near the Northeast Portland hospital. Among their chants: “Hey, Providence, you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side.”

One of the nurses, Nicole Zapata, echoed the feelings of many strikers.

“We’re all out here fighting for what we deserve,” Zapata said. “We didn’t want to leave our patients.”

ONA President Tammie Cline used a medical term to describe the current working conditions.

“Providence is hemorrhaging nurses right now,” Cline said. “It comes down to fair staffing – and recruiting and retaining our nurses … and like we’ve been saying, if nurses are on the outside, there’s a problem on the inside.”

Merkley, always an outspoken advocate for workers, asked a rhetorical question at the rally.

“I think that it is possible that an organization that has $8 billion in cash should pay nurses better, don’t you think?” Merkley said.

Healthcare workers at Providence hope the CEO hears them loud and clear.

Providence officials said they are not taking in as many patients right now but they brought in traveling nurses as “replacement workforce” for the duration of the strike.

“I’m pleased to report that the transition to our replacement workforce has been completed,” Providence Central Division Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Gentry said in a statement. “I am confident in the capabilities of these replacement nurses – and their ability to care for our community.”

The strike is scheduled to last through Friday and nurses are planning to picket around-the-clock in Portland for the length of the walkout.