Today, nurses at Providence Portland, Seaside and Home Health and Hospice will end a strike that began on Monday. Both sides expect talks about higher wages to resume, although no date is set. Kara Hayden, a speech and language pathologist with Providence Home Health and Hospice, joins us to talk about what’s next.
Note: This transcript was computer generated and edited by a volunteer.
Jenn Chávez: This is Think Out Loud on OPB. I’m Jenn Chávez, in for Dave Miller. Happy Friday, everyone. Since Monday morning, nurses and other health care workers at Providence Portland, Seaside and Home Health and Hospice have been on strike. Providence, one of the nation’s largest health systems and the Oregon Nurses Association, the union representing the striking nurses, couldn’t reach a deal on critical contract issues. The strike ends today and both sides expect talks to resume. Joining me now to talk more about what’s next is Kara Hayden, a speech and language pathologist with Providence Home Health and Hospice. Kara, thank you so much for being with us.
Kara Hayden: Thank you for having me, Jenn.
Chávez: So to start off, what has your experience on the picket line this week been like?
Hayden: It’s been really emotional. In home health and hospice, we are in people’s homes so it’s a very intimate work setting. We are really close to our patients and families. So it’s really hard to be on the picket line right now knowing that they’re not getting the services they deserve, but at the same time, many of them have been really supportive of us and have even proactively declined services this week because they would prefer to wait for their nurse or their speech language pathologist, for example, that they already have an established relationship with. And the support from the community across our picket lines at Seaside PPMC and at Providence Home Health and Hospice at our Halsey Building has been overwhelming. I mean, the community has come by with food, honks, waves and people have passed out flowers to us, thanked us. And that really buoyed our spirits and kept us going.
Chávez: Wow. So what are the main things you are still pushing for in contract negotiations?
Hayden: Ultimately, we’re hoping for a fair contract and we would like it now, sooner rather than later. We’re really hoping that Providence will come to the table with reasonable responses to our proposals on wages, safe staffing and productivity, paid time-off and other items specific to home, home health, like electronic visit, verification that would follow the federal law and doesn’t go beyond the law and doesn’t leave our patient and provider geolocation data vulnerable to data misuse by our employer.
Chávez: Providence has said that it was pulling back on some of the contract offers it made previously because of the decision to strike. How do you think that will affect negotiations from here?
Hayden: I don’t think a lot. I think that’s just a scare tactic to discourage some of our unit members and just to scare them.
Chávez: And Providence has also said that they have been losing money since the end of 2021 partly due to increased expenses and other pandemic related effects. How hopeful are you for the state of health care in Oregon right now?
Hayden: I’m pretty hopeful because that is a very misleading statement that Providence has been putting out to the public. If you look up their financial statements, which are public because they are a nonprofit, they clearly state that their patient facing lines such as the hospital home health hospice. We are in the black. We are making the money. Where they’re losing money and where technically their productivity is failing them is an administration. They are costing themselves money with bad business decisions. They have eaten up or taken over smaller healthcare systems. And after a while, those health care systems realized that Providence wasn’t letting them meet the needs of their local communities and they wanted to disaffiliate with Providence. And those costs of disaffiliation have cost Providence that $1.6 [billion] to $1.8 billion that they’re reporting as a loss.
Chávez: I really appreciate you responding to that. So what comes next from here in the negotiation process?
Hayden: Well, for our particular bargaining unit at Providence Home Health and Hospice, we returned to the table on Tuesday and we’re really hopeful that Providence is going to have reasonable responses. The ball is really in their court. This is Providence leadership’s opportunity to change the course that healthcare is on in our country right now. And they can either decide to give us proposals that will give us the time to care for our patients and to uphold the Providence promise of getting to know us, care for our patients and to ease their way.
And we would like to see a productive session on Tuesday where we are face-to-face with them for more than just 62 to 93 minutes out of an eight hour day because that’s literally how long they have been face-to-face with us in the same room in our last two sessions.
Chávez: Well, Kara, thank you so much for joining us for this check in on the last day of the strike today.
Hayden: Thank you so much for having me.
Chávez: Kara Hayden is a speech and language pathologist with Providence Home Health and Hospice.
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