EUGENE, Ore. -- With COVID-19 cases surging in Oregon, hospitals across the state and locally are bringing in much-needed help. However, the nurses are finding it extremely difficult to find an affordable place to live in Eugene.
One travel nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, reached out to KEZI to express her concern.
"I get there in two days and I have nowhere to go," she said. "It actually kind of gives me chills just thinking about because it's something I never ever expected or have run into with traveling."
The registered nurse said she responded to the call for nurses needed quickly in Eugene. She got her contract and then started looking for a place to stay for her three-month rotation. That is when she ran into some issues.
Airbnb's were listed for thousands of dollars, and she said any apartment with availability came unfurnished and was gone within an hour. Hotels were not much better. One Springfield hotel quoted her nearly $20,000 for the three months. The breakdown showed that they hiked up the prices over the weekends due to the University of Oregon football games. It's impossible for her to pay that upfront because she won't get paid until she starts working.
"I'm not coming here for football, I literally want to shower and sleep," she said. "I get emotional about it. It's frustrating. I'm coming to you and work in your state and know your protocols and know your community. But I can't find anywhere to stay."
She's not alone. Dozens of nurses on their way have expressed that they're running into brick walls when it comes to housing.
Many are going to be assigned to PeaceHealth hospitals, so what are they doing to help?
In a statement, PeaceHealth said:
"PeaceHealth, like other hospital and health systems in Oregon and throughout the nation, brings in traveling nurses to be able to respond to fluctuations in staffing needs. PeaceHealth has contracted to bring in traveling nurses to help care for patients at a time of high patient volumes and a surge in COVID-19 patients.
Eugene-Springfield’s tight housing market presents a challenge for anyone seeking lodging, including PeaceHealth caregivers who live in our community and traveling nurses coming to work in our area. This is a community-wide problem that will continue to require community-wide solutions. Fortunately, all traveling nurses receive funds for housing that are included in PeaceHealth’s agreements with agencies that provide traveling nurses. The Merete Hotel Group, who lodged so many healthcare workers and community members during last year’s wildfires, has stepped forward to partner with PeaceHealth and help with housing our traveling nurses, offering reduced rates and a dedicated concierge to assist them.
As a community partner, PeaceHealth is actively engaged in both short- and long-term housing solutions. One strategy PeaceHealth has recently implemented is a lodging hotline that all PeaceHealth caregivers and travelers can call for assistance. This hotline provides housing resources and helps connect property owners offering housing options with PeaceHealth staff and traveling nurses seeking housing. Callers are provided with a list of local housing leads that they can follow up on to help find housing that will meet their needs. If anyone in the community has potential housing options to share with PeaceHealth staff or traveling nurses, please call 541-222-8111. Thank you for helping to get the word out to support healthcare in our community."
The travel RN we spoke with said she did not have any luck with the hotline and was told by local hotels there were too many ''blackout dates'' or days when promotions would not apply. This made it nearly impossible to book continuous days.
As of Tuesday, she has nowhere to stay. She starts work in Eugene on Thursday, leaving her basically homeless anytime she leaves the hospital.
Recently, PeaceHealth hospitals implemented a new COVID-19 vaccine requirement. Starting Aug. 31, all caregivers will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit a qualifying medical exemption. The policy will apply to all caregivers, including providers, students, contractors, vendors, and volunteers. Those who fail to do either could be placed on unpaid leave.
KEZI was provided a document by a PeaceHealth employee that states employed health care workers who fail to comply with the requirement of this policy will be placed on unpaid leave until compliant. Failure to comply may result in corrective action up to and including termination of employment.