SALEM, Ore. — On Monday, 30 members of the National Guard will be sent to the Oregon State Hospital in Salem to help as the psychiatric facility deals with significant staffing shortages.
The National Guard members will train for two weeks before they start taking shifts. They'll provide care to patients through July 31.
This move is coming as the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), which oversees the hospital, requested 30 nurses from the National Guard late last month, as well as volunteers from other agencies.
“We need your help,” Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen wrote to state employees last week. “OHA has exhausted all other staffing options for the hospital’s Salem Campus, and our circumstances are dire.”
The OHA says in recent weeks about 33% of the hospital's nursing staff have been out on coronavirus-related leave.
"Many people are unable to work because they're taking care of loved ones or because they lost their childcare," the OHA said on its website Thursday.
The staffing crisis has persisted on and off throughout the pandemic, but the number of staff out on COVID-related leave has increased dramatically since February.
Hospital Superintendent Dolly Matteucci told state lawmakers last month that nearly 700 employees had taken some form of COVID-19 leave and from February to March there was a 45% increase in direct-care staff taking leave.
The hospital attempted several efforts to try and help with staffing levels including bringing people from other sections of the hospital to help with patient units, offering overtime pay and speeding up the process of bringing on new employees.
The hospital treats some of the state’s most vulnerable: those found guilty except for insanity, civil commitment patients, and those ordered to the hospital by a judge on aid and assist orders.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.