Portland nurses demand COVID-19 protection

Nurses and other health care workers, along with community members, demonstrated in front of Providence Portland Medical Center on Feb. 5, demanding COVID-19 protection and better working conditions. The rally was one day after Providence gave the COVID-19 vaccine — meant for people most at risk — to certain large donors and board members. 

Portland nurses rally, Feb. 5. WW Photo: Lyn Neeley

Gabriel Erbs, organizer for the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), told this reporter: “Providence is a multibillion-dollar corporation and one of Oregon’s largest employers. If it’s not held accountable for protecting workers, no one will be. ONA nurses are being told to use their own paid time off if they are mandated to quarantine and stay home from work. That’s wrong and unsafe for nurses and patients.”

ONA accused Providence of refusing to meet industry-standard COVID-19 safety measures to protect nurses and other health care workers, patients and the community. The union had gathered 1,500 commitment cards signed by fellow nurses, which were strung together and held by protesters. Halfway through the rally, a group marched across the facility to deliver the cards to Providence executives. 

Portland nurses rally Feb. 5, displaying “commitment cards” calling for a ‘COVID-19 Bill of Rights.’ WW Photo: Lyn Neeley

ONA is calling for Providence to adopt the COVID-19 Bill of Rights which demands protection for state health care workers. The bill is based on the American Nurses Association’s “Nursing Code of Ethics” (2015). The Code calls for safe staffing, appropriate PPE, access to timely COVID-19 testing, prompt exposure notification, safety for caregivers, paid time off and compensation for COVID-19 illness and childcare support to continue working through the pandemic.

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