SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- A recent investigation by the Oregon Health Authority shows that PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend failed to follow regulations for nurse staffing levels.
According to a report published on Sept. 23, OHA launched the investigation after it received two nurse staffing complaints at RiverBend Hospital.
Investigators said they found that the hospital's nurse staffing plan did not comply with state law, which requires the nurses' schedule to consider the amount of nursing time it would take to meet each patient's needs.
The plan must include a method of evaluating the intensity of each patient's symptoms as well as the time devoted to factors like emotional needs, complicated family situations and translation issues. These factors are called acuity and intensity, respectively.
The report said RiverBend had no method of evaluating acuity and intensity in their nurse staffing plan.
Investigators observed the hospital on Nov. 24, 2018. On that day, they found that the nurse's assignment sheet included only patient room numbers while lacking information about acuity or intensity. That same day, documents showed that a registered nurse was filling in as a certified nursing assistant due to scheduling issues.
Nursing staff later said in an interview that on that same day, there would have been no way to know if patient acuity and intensity was too high for the number of nurses scheduled.
According to PeaceHealth nurse and Oregon Nursing Association member Kevyn Paul, scheduling issues are common across the state.
"The sicker the patient is, the more work it is for the nurse. The more work it is, the more time that the patient takes. If a patient needs a lot of time for their care, that takes time away from other patients," she said.
Paul said that an underlying issue is the amount of time it takes OHA to investigate staffing complaints. She said a tighter timeframe would encourage hospitals to act faster.
PeaceHealth has 30 business days from Sept. 23 to submit a plan of correction, which would address how and when the hospital expects to correct the scheduling issues and who will monitor the implementation of the corrections.
In a statement, PeaceHealth told KEZI 9 News it was looking into solutions.
"PeaceHealth is in the process of evaluating software solutions for patient classification/acuity systems to support added visibility to varying levels of patient care requirements, nursing skill mix and patient assignments. These solutions ultimately will allow us to move away from the current paper documentation system," the statement read.