OHSU Can Do Better

Dear Colleagues,

We are disheartened to hear about recent COVID exposures amongst OHSU staff; we are thinking about those in quarantine, those on the frontlines of this COVID pandemic, and our patients struggling with COVID at record numbers. We are particularly alarmed about the recent COVID outbreak amongst employees because of the continued overcrowding of our workspaces.

Unlike most OHSU employees, residents do not have designated breaks or lunch times and must often multitask by eating and drinking while also performing computer tasks and managing teams. There are no separate break areas for residents outside of shared workrooms. Workrooms on 4A, 14A, 11K, 12K, and 13K are crowded with up to 25 residents, advanced practice providers, and students.

We have had several meetings to discuss problematic workspaces during which photo documentation has been provided to various levels of OHSU leadership. Hospital administration has responded with “fixes” which have left frontline workers with even fewer resources to perform patient care in the midst of a pandemic. Essential equipment was removed without warning from our shared workspaces. As a result, HOU filed a formal complaint regarding workplace safety with Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on October 12, 2020. OHSU leadership has responded to the recent outbreak by placing blame on frontline workers rather than taking responsibility to provide adequate workspace for COVID safety.

Even before the COVID pandemic, house officers pleaded with administration for adequate workspace to deliver excellent patient care. We needed improved workplace conditions to improve our efficiency, minimize spread of communicable disease, and protect patient health information. Now, we need it to protect Oregon’s workforce in an unprecedented pandemic, during which OHSU continues to profit. The pandemic has transformed this chronic need into an emergent demand for our safety and that of our patients. Blaming residents for exposure to one another in the setting of inadequate work and rest areas commits moral injury to the frontline workers OHSU has failed to protect.

While frustrated by the circumstances surrounding the pandemic, we believe that our safety and the safety of our patients is a shared responsibility. As we continue to follow best practices both as individuals and as a group of frontline healthcare workers, we ask OHSU to take action to ensure workplace safety inside the hospital.

House Officers Union