By Taxpayers Association of Oregon
Oregon health officials just released their crisis care protocol, which spells out how hospitals should ration health care services to decide who lives and who dies in expectation of the looming Omicron surge.
As Oregon had to back-to-back record-breaking virus days last week, we take this forecast seriously, but we would rather have officials work more to solve problems rather than manage problems.
Here is the REAL story.
Oregon was rated as having the fewest hospital beds (worst hospitalization capacity rate) in America BEFORE the pandemic.
This is because Oregon has 15,000 health care workers missing from the field, and labor determines capacity.
Here are six reasons why Oregon was so bad before the pandemic:
- National labor shortage
- National wave of early retirements by Baby Boomers
- High hospital taxes: Oregon has high hospital taxes and regulations, leaving less money available to hire actual people to save lives.
- Anti-Competition laws: Oregon has union-backed anti-competition laws that prevent new health care worker hires from outside the state and also blocks the building of new hospitals.
- High labor costs: Oregon has extremely high labor costs such as nationally high minimum wage laws, nationally high income taxes, compensation mandates, etc.
Here are three reasons why it is worse since the pandemic:
- Oregon among the strictest: Oregon is among six states with the strictest (least flexible) vaccine mandates for health care workers, resulting in health care workers being laid off in large numbers.
- Extended non-emergency delay: By not hiring new workers early and often, Oregon has delayed non-emergency care appointments and services, creating an extended logjam with rippling delay effects. Those problems now affect emergency care.
- Wasting existing Covid funds: Politicians prefer to spend billions of Covid relief funds on self-serving or popular projects rather than in hiring health care workers.
Here we are in a labor shortage, with forecasted health care rationing, and politicians are refusing to spend enough money to relieve the problem. Oregon has at least $1.4 billion in unspent emergency Covid funds in a slush account. Why not use it to hire workers?
Lawmakers were given over a half billion in Covid funds to spend anyway they wished and targeted much of it to economic and nonemergency community projects. For instance, is it really worth spending $1.4 million in Covid funds on construction of a building for a political lobby organization when that money could be spent on hiring nurses who could save lives? Maybe our lawmakers should be steering 10 percent of their nonessential Covid funds (spent mostly on economic projects) toward more life-saving services, such as alleviating the health care labor shortage. This is proof that big government fails to spend money where needed even if it costs people’s lives.
Other states are using their Covid funds to fix the problem. For example, Montana is offering $12,500 in hiring bonuses for healthcare workers to move into their state.
We applaud the November plan by health officials to hire 350 workers, but Oregon needs way more than that. Alaska’s governor is recruiting 400 healthcare workers to serve a population of only 700,000 while Oregon has 4.5 million people—and Alaska started nearly six months ago. Some of those 400 workers could have come to Oregon where they proportionately could have helped save more lives.
New Hampshire hired a national job recruiting firm to help hire more health care workers. They did that September and didn’t wait for Omicron to appear.
North Carolina is focusing on directing resources on training new physicians specifically for rural hospitals and their unique challenges and shortages.
We understand it is hard to forecast a crisis, but we have been in the pandemic for nearly two years, and the problem existed before the Covid crisis. Oregon politicians fail to address problems when they first appear but rather wait until they become full-blown explosive, unmanageable, and embarrassing before they decide to do something about it.
For instance, when test kits were in short supply in September due to the Delta surge, Oregon should have ordered test kits so the shortage wouldn’t happen again. Yet it took Omicron to hit and late December before state officials ordered new test kits in sufficient quantities. Now we are in January, and headlines are rife with test kit shortages.
This is why state officials issuing a health care rationing plan, however noble or well intentioned, seems so disconnected from reality and the practical solutions needed to alleviate problems. It seems similar to urging people to update their fire insurance ahead of a looming wildfire season—but failing to actually hire firefighters to battle the blazes — and then pocketing the firefighter money for economic development.
Politicians shouldn’t be deciding who is going to live and die when there is still money on the table to rescue them and laws to pass to prevent it from happening.
Furthermore, many of these consequential decisions are being made exclusively by the Governor and not involving the people’s elected lawmakers. Shouldn’t they have a voice or vote in the process?
Here are some bonus charts to further explain:
Oregon government took care of its own government workers…not it’s health care workers
Oregon made sure they protected their own government jobs…did not protect the loss of health care jobs.
Oregon’s new highly expensive business tax ended up destroying an entire local pharmacy chain last year. Proof positive that high taxes are wrecking Oregon’s health care system. Below is their full page closing announcement.
Here is an example on how Oregon waits too late to solve problems
Portland spent a $1.4 million of tax dollars on grants to pot shops. Why are they not investing in hiring nurses at a time of healthcare rationing?
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