ONA Report on the 2015 Oregon Legislative Session
Thanks to nurses’ support, ONA had a successful legislative session in 2015. We were able to improve Oregon’s hospital nurse staffing law, increase access to paid sick days, and work to find ways to expand school nursing services.
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2015 ONA Legislative Agenda
The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) is Oregon’s oldest and largest professional association and labor union for registered nurses. ONA is proud to represent more than 12,000 Oregon nurses. From school-based health centers and emergency rooms, to public health departments and Nurse Practitioner-run clinics, ONA members are on the front lines of our health care system. ONA works to support policies that ensure the best working conditions for nurses and the best health care for patients.
Top Priorities for ONA Members
The Oregon Nurses Association’s Cabinet on Health Policy has identified the following as ONA’s legislative priorities for the 2015 state legislative session:
- Hospital Nurse Staffing: Oregon’s nurse staffing law gives hospital nurse staffing committees the responsibility to develop staffing plans. Over the last decade, national research and ONA members’ experience with the law has revealed areas where the staffing law should be strengthened to improve patient safety and working conditions for nurses. ONA will advocate for improvements to Oregon’s nurse staffing law that will empower direct-care nurses, enhance transparency, increase the law’s enforcement and increase hospitals’ accountability.
- Click here to view ONA’s Framework for Changes to Oregon’s Nurse Staffing Law
- Click here to learn more about nurse staffing
- RNs on Blood Drives: Blood donation companies are actively trying to eliminate nurses and other health care professionals from blood donation events in Oregon and across the country. In order to ensure donor safety, strengthen the public’s trust and protect the safety of Oregon’s blood supply, ONA supports a bill that requires a registered nurse, or other licensed health care professional to be present at all blood donation procedures.
- Improving Access to School Nurses: In 2009, the Oregon State Legislature recommended the state reach a ratio of one school nurse for every 750 students by 2020. Currently, Oregon has only one school nurse for every 4,054 students, with no viable plan to meet the Legislature’s goal. ONA recommends the state establish a task force to work on strategies to improve Oregon’s school nurse to student ratio and authorize a full-time State School Nursing Consultant to provide leadership and guidance on issues pertaining to school nurses.
- Public Health: Sick days: More than 80 percent of low-wage workers do not earn paid sick days. Workers without paid time off are 1.5 times more likely to go to work with a contagious illness. As parents, they are more likely to send their children to school sick because they can’t afford to take time off work to care for a sick child. A statewide paid sick days policy would prevent workers from having to make the lose-lose decision between forgoing wages by staying home sick, spreading illness by going to work sick or sending a sick child to school.
- Tobacco and Nicotine Prevention: Oregon is one of only nine states that allow children to purchase electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and the state does not restrict where e-cigarettes can be used. ONA supports limiting e-cigarette access to adults and prohibiting e-cigarette use in public spaces and workplaces. ONA will also continue our work from 2013 to ensure Oregon’s Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funds are spent on tobacco prevention and health improvement as required by the settlement.
Additional Priorities for ONA Members
- Economic Fairness: Retirement Security, Raising the Minimum Wage: Nearly half of all Oregonians do not have a retirement plan at work. As a result, many are at risk of living in poverty when they retire. Many other working Oregonians already live in poverty because they don’t earn a living wage. Raising the minimum wage and giving working Oregonians an easy way to save for retirement will help Oregonians provide security for themselves and their families, both now and in the future.
- Technical Fixes to NP Payment Parity: In 2013, ONA helped pass the nation’s first Nurse Practitioner Payment Parity Law. The law requires insurance companies to provide equal reimbursements to primary care and mental health nurse practitioners, physicians assistants and physicians, when they perform the same work and bill under the same codes. In 2015, ONA will explore technical fixes to the law to ensure full compliance from insurers.
- Provider Incentives: Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are a critical part of Oregon’s health care workforce. They are eligible for a number of state incentives designed to attract and retain providers in rural and underserved areas. In many areas of the state NPs are the only primary care providers. Provider incentives are necessary to ensure patients throughout the state have access to high-quality care.
- Funding for Nursing Programs: Nursing programs at OHSU and in Oregon’s Community Colleges prepare students to enter Oregon’s nursing workforce. Funding these programs is essential to meet future workforce needs, especially as primary and preventive health care reforms are implemented and more Oregonians gain access to care.