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PeaceHealth's home care nurses authorize option to strike

Heather Herbert, a hospice nurse with PeaceHealth, speaks at a press conference in Springfield on Dec. 29.
Nathan Wilk
Heather Herbert, a hospice nurse with PeaceHealth, speaks at a press conference in Springfield on Dec. 29. Other speakers included state Representative Paul Holvey and U.S. Representative Val Hoyle.

Home care and hospice nurses at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart announced Friday that they’ve authorized a strike, but said they’re waiting for the hospital’s response before moving ahead.

At a press conference in Springfield, the home care nurses called on PeaceHealth to offer them the same wages as in-hospital nurses at RiverBend, arguing the jobs have comparable responsibilities.

“All we're asking is equal pay for equal work,” said hospice nurse Paulette Farrell, “so that we can continue to do our jobs and care for our community the way you all deserve to be cared for.”

According to Oregon Nurses Association spokesperson Myrna Jensen, previous contracts with PeaceHealth had parity between those nursing types. But she said hospital leadership has proposed lower increases for home and hospice care moving forward.

As a result, the parties have been unable to come to an agreement to replace their previous contract, which expired in April. Meanwhile, Jensen said the current wages are already pushing workers away.

Hospice nurse Heather Herbert said with less staff, she’s having to juggle more patients, and she can no longer clear her schedule in an emergency situation.

“I work with dying children,” said Herbert. “Can you imagine telling the parents of a dying child that you have to leave early because PeaceHealth is having a staffing crisis?”

Before deciding how to move forward, the nurses plan to meet with hospital administration on Jan. 5. Hospice nurse Jo Turner said the workers aren’t taking this decision lightly.

“Deep in our hearts we know that our patients come first,” said Turner. “But if PeaceHealth leaves us no other option than to strike, then that's something that we must do.”

In a statement to KLCC by email, PeaceHealth spokesperson Joe Waltasti said it’s preparing for a possible strike, but it’s also looking to work with the nurses.

“PeaceHealth has successfully negotiated four other long-term union contracts this year in the Oregon network, representing nearly 3,000 caregivers in Lane County,” said Waltasti. “We remain hopeful an agreement can be reached with our ONA-represented Home Care nurses so they can also benefit from the improvements a new contract will provide.”

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.