A vision for improved health care in Oregon

Perspective on Oregon Health Care

by Becky Hultberg

For more than a century, Oregon’s not-for-profit hospitals have worked hard to keep our communities healthy. Generation after generation, they have been our safety net, caring for all regardless of their ability to pay. They have been supporters of our communities, bolstering mission-driven community organizations with financial support, and they have been major employers, providing family wage jobs that have driven economic growth.

For almost as long—90 years—the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) has communicated and worked collaboratively with the public, legislators, community organizations and others to ensure hospitals have the resources and workforce they need. As we navigate the new challenges emerging after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, I will be reaching out periodically to share with you what’s happening in our hospitals and the important work they are doing every day to keep Oregon’s communities healthy.

When I joined the hospital association in December 2019, I had a vision of helping hospitals have a meaningful voice in the health care reform conversation. That vision was centered on community health and well-being and equitable access to care. But three years ago, the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed our health care system beyond its limits with serious implications for patients and communities. Every day became a new test of our capabilities and resolve, and long-term goals to improve community health were tabled in the face of the immediacy of a global health care crisis.

Three years later, we’re still dealing with the aftershocks of COVID-19. But it is time to work together on that long-term vision. It is time to reimagine health care. To do that, hospitals will need support as they recover from the devastation of the pandemic.

At OAHHS, we’re working on common sense solutions to ensure hospitals have the capacity to meet the current and future needs of Oregon’s communities. This legislative session, we are at our state capitol to advocate for a package of policies that protect access to care by rebuilding the health care workforce, paying hospitals for all the care they provide and requiring the legislature to consider the impacts of proposed policies on health care delivery in our state. We’re also supporting calls to change our current nurse staffing law, which doesn’t work for hospitals, hospital staff—and most importantly, patients—and rallying for legislation that helps ensure equitable access to care.

Our hospital association is striving to build on Oregon’s legacy of health care innovation. This work isn’t easy, but we’re eager to collaborate with others on practical solutions to ensure health care providers along the entire continuum of care—from behavioral health clinics to hospitals to nursing homes—can continue delivering dependable, comprehensive care to every person in our state today and for generations to come.