Oregon senate passes first bill of historic package that supports hospital staff, rebuilds workforce

June 23, 2023

In a show of strong bipartisan support, the Oregon Senate late Thursday evening passed by a 19 to 5 vote House Bill 2697, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that will make significant advances in hospital staffing and patient care.

The bill is now headed to the desk of Gov. Tina Kotek.

The Senate is also expected to consider two other bills as part of this historic package, House Bill 3396 and House Bill 2045, which will help build a pipeline of much needed health care workers, begin to address hospitals’ capacity and discharge challenges, and remove barriers to investments in frontline health care workers.

“These bills will mean more sustainable careers for nurses and health workers, better care for our communities and a brighter future for Oregon,” said Tamie Cline, a registered nurse and president of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA). “Nurses in every corner of the state demanded change with one voice, and together we have made real progress. As we move forward to implement these bills, we will make sure that nurses and health professionals have a real voice and role in the process.”

The collective package represents months of negotiations between the ONA, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), Service Employees International Union Local 49 (SEIU) and the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS). At the urging of Rep. Rob Nosse (D-Portland), chair of the House Committee on Behavioral Health and Health Care, the groups worked together to solidify support for the package, forging a coalition of supporters that remains in place today and moving forward.

“We are excited to see that Oregon is taking steps towards addressing the biggest crisis facing health care professionals today: short staffing,” said Jonathon Baker, president of OFNHP – AFT 5017. “The success of this legislation shows that we can change our health care system for the better when we come together and act in solidarity.”

The package includes:

  • House Bill 2697, which establishes first-in-the-nation nurse-to-patient and certified nursing assistant nurse-to-patient ratios in state statute for a wide range of hospital settings including emergency departments, intensive care units, labor and delivery units, operating rooms, and others. The bill also establishes committees for other hospital care providers like respiratory therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, environmental services workers, and many others to create clear standards to improve staffing for the entire hospital care team.
  • House Bill 3396, a $25 million workforce package that leverages federal dollars to increase clinical education capacity at Oregon’s hospitals and health care facilities and supports the recruitment and retention of nurse faculty. This bill also creates a task force aimed at finding solutions for hospitals’ capacity and discharge challenges.
  • House Bill 2045, which improves the health care cost growth target program to support investments in the health care workforce.  HB 2045 makes changes to the state’s cost growth target program to report health care workforce costs for frontline caregivers, allowing hospitals and other health care providers to invest in their frontline staff without being penalized.
  • “We are proud of the collaborative efforts that led to this package of legislation, which will support our hospital staff who work so hard on behalf of patients,” said Becky Hultberg, OAHHS president and CEO. “The legislation also reduces many of the administrative burdens hospitals currently struggle with and builds partnerships that we hope will help ensure access to care for patients well into the future.”

The hospital staffing bill, House Bill 2697, becomes effective Sept. 1, but will be implemented in phases through July 1, 2026.

“We are proud to support this legislation and recognize how our collective efforts will make a difference for both patients and frontline caregivers throughout Oregon,” says Meg Niemi, president of Service Employees International Union Local 49. “By listening to the voices of frontline workers, this legislature has made historic investments in our workforce and for the first time ever included professional, technical, and service workers in staffing laws. We couldn’t be happier to be part of this agreement and celebrating a huge win for the health care industry.”