Business & economy

Long-term care advocate from Ontario named to Senate task force

ONTARIO—With hundreds of recuperating patients stranded in Oregon hospitals due to a lack of skilled nursing facilities, an Ontario business owner has been appointed to a state senate task force to study the issue.

Sarah Ray, an Ontario resident who owns three long-term facilities, joins nearly 20 other Oregonians from the nursing industry to consider the backlog of patients at hospitals who are sometimes stranded for up to a month because there is no room at other care facilities.

According to Ray, who advocates for long-term nursing care in Salem, Oregon’s hospital beds are occupied by recuperating patients who otherwise would be in long-term care if there was not a shortage of facilities.

The logjam of patients, she said, is “crushing” the state’s health care system.

“I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh, this wouldn’t matter to me,'” Ray said. “But when you have to have a major surgery, and you can’t get a bed in the hospital, then suddenly it matters to you.”

The problem, she said, is not just medical, but it includes mental health and addiction.

The task force, Ray said, is looking into more funding for 24-hour care facilities for behavioral health and addiction. She said much of substance abuse and mental health treatments have focused on getting people into housing. However, she said, if there are not enough resources, including staff and facilities for 24-hour mental health and addiction care, that will not help to solve the problem.

She said another aspect of the problem is the unsustainable wages paid to workers in long-term care settings e. Ray said pay is around $18 per hour. The task force will do a wage study to justify higher insurance reimbursements.

She said the task force is also looking at an interstate compact so that licensed out-of-state nurses can immediately go to work in Oregon without going through a new licensing process.

Oregon is one of three states that do not allow cross-state service by nurses. According to the Oregon Nursing Board, a nurse with a license from another state must still go through Oregon’s 90-day license verification process.

Ray said keeping open the cash-strapped Pioneer Place, Malheur County’s lone long-term nursing facility, is critical to lessening the logjam of recuperating patients at area hospitals.

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