Major Win! New Agreement Requires OHSU to Provide a Phone or Pager

Over the summer, we heard from many members who were upset that OHSU was phasing out belt-pagers and requiring people to use their personal devices to access the OHSU paging system. Many complained that this was invasive, and others raised issues about connectivity. Depending on which cell service provider you use, you've probably experienced service failures in some areas of campus. In an emergency situation, a delayed page can have serious implications for patient care.

After months of negotiations on the issue of the paging system, our union has reached an agreement with OHSU. Under this new agreement, every House Officer who requires access to the OHSU's paging system will either be provided with a SPOK-compatible mobile phone free of charge or, especially for those who work in areas with serious cellular reception issues such as the VA, a belt pager. Residents may continue to use their personal devices, but no resident will be compelled to use SPOK on their personal device if they do not wish to. These OHSU-provided devices will be available by request on November 10th. 

This agreement also shields HOU members from legal liability or discipline--if the device OHSU provides does not receive a page in a timely manner due to a fault in OHSU's paging system, you cannot be held responsible for any immediate patient care issues arising from the delay. You can read the full text of the agreement here.

We know that many of the concerns about the paging system were driven by issues that stem connectivity at the VA specifically. As such, we're also currently in talks with HR about creating a committee to facilitate communication and troubleshoot problems such as this one that impact both OHSU and the VA. Details about this are still coming together, so stay tuned for more information. In the short term though, everyone rotating at the VA should receive a belt pager. If you don't, please let us know. 

Xiao-Yue Han, a resident in General Surgery who helped negotiate the agreement, had this to say about the process and the outcome:

"Safe, secure, and reliable communication is essential in the care of our patients. OHSU’s preliminary position on Spok forced our newest resident physicians to install mission-critical work apps on their personal devices, placing the burden of patient care communications on the backs of residents and their limited salaries, on their phones which may not be compatible, and on their plans which may not have service in critical patient care areas, ultimately resulting in delayed or missed communications to the detriment of our patients.

The agreement between HOU and OHSU has preserved patient safety and resident liberty and is the result of collective advocacy by residents from multiple specialties through HOU. The deal compels OHSU to iterate communication technologies to support patient care on behalf of patients and the trainees that care for them. It centers the responsibility of providing such tools to the organization, not the trainees at the patient’s bedside."

We feel that this outcome represents a significant victory for our union and the patients we serve. We'd like to offer a sincere thank you to everyone who helped with negotiations or participated in our letter-writing campaign about this issue over the summer. When we stand together, we win! Remember, our ability to make improvements in negotiations about issues like this is only as strong as our membership. If you aren't currently a member of the House Officer's Union, or aren't sure if you've completed a membership form, please take a moment to do so here!