On the morning of Wednesday, March 1st, more than 20 Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)s marched into the office of PeaceHealth Columbia Network’s CEO, Sean Gregory, demanding increased incentive pay as a solution for the unsafe staffing levels many report facing. The CNAs at PeaceHealth are facing a staffing crisis similar to that faced by our members at Kaiser Permanente, St. Charles, and Mid-Columbia Medical Center, and at hospitals and clinics across the country.
This action was designed to raise this staffing issue in a way that Gregory could not ignore, showing that PeaceHealth needed to take action immediately to protect staff and patients. The CNAs had collected over 120 stories from across their units at PeaceHealth, showing how unsafe staffing was affecting the hospital and health system.
When the CNAs arrived, they found that Gregory had not come into the office, but the CNAs demanded that PeaceHealth leadership meet them to discuss their concerns and demands. PeaceHealth Chief Operating Officer (COO) Gary Foster came out to meet them, appearing visibly upset that these workers were demanding to speak with leadership about these issues. The members handed over their stories, each of which was signed by the member who shared it, and they demanded that a follow up meeting be held with Sean Gregory so that their demands for incentive pay will be heard.
This is just the first step in a campaign to confront the staffing crisis at PeaceHealth, demanding that incentive pay be offered as a way of ensuring retention, continuity, and recruitment of staff. The short staffing crisis is a result of intentional decisions by health systems, which have created incredibly difficult working conditions that healthcare workers say pushes them out of the work. It’s time that PeaceHealth reverses this trend by incentivizing staff, and we will do whatever it takes to push these necessary reforms across this health system. This is, more than anything, a campaign for patient safety, which we know is what is at stake when short staffing is the norm.