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After a patient died, a frustrated nurse sent an email — and was fired

New lawsuit claims Providence Health & Services fired a nurse supervisor in Portland over complaints about unsafe staffing
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Providence Health has been sued over alleged retaliation. | M.O. STEVENS/CC BY 3.0/WIKIMEDIA
April 27, 2023

Nurse Ben Hoshour was working the overnight shift at Providence Portland Medical Center during the pandemic when a patient died of cardiac arrest in the middle of being transported to discharge.

That led Hoshour to send a frustrated email to two coworkers — which in turn led to his firing six days later, according to a lawsuit he filed in Multnomah Circuit Court on April 26.

The suit centers on allegations that Hoshour faced retribution over complaints he made about unsafe staffing. The lawsuit comes as Oregon lawmakers consider a bill to beef up nurse staffing ratios in hospitals, which recently generated a compromise sparking health system support.

Asked about the lawsuit, Providence Health issued a statement:  “Patient safety is our highest priority at Providence, and we do not comment on pending litigation.”

According to the suit, the state Bureau of Labor and Industries has since investigated Hoshour’s case and found “substantial evidence” of retaliation.

As the overnight supervisor, Hoshour’s job was to coordinate nurse staffing for the entire hospital, and he had been registering complaints with management over inadequate staffing over the previous year.

Management also rejected his proposal to use of a spreadsheet to ensure safe staffing levels, according to the suit. 

Those previous interactions apparently helped fuel an email he sent during the shift of Feb. 2-3 in 2021. It cited the staffing plans hospitals are required to maintain under current state law, which critics have blasted as weak and ineffective.

 “We are told all the time that staffing grids are ‘guidelines only’ and that they are not an excuse to avoid admissions,” he wrote, according to the suit. “We’re also losing RNs left and right lately. I keep hearing that Providence is underpaying employees when compared to other organizations right now, especially those giving some kind of COVID pay … It’s sad when I have to advocate for my nurses against our own leadership.”
One coworker responded to Hoshour suggesting that management of the Sisters of Providence, who oversee the health system, would not be happy to know what’s going on, the suit claimed.

“If you’re [sic] unit is only staffed to safely care for 20 people but all 27 of your beds have patients in them? Waiting for an accident to happen,” the employee wrote, according to the suit. “I feel that if this got above the local ministry leadership and hit the regional leadership’s radar, there might be more discussion around it.”
After the shift, Hoshour’s suit claims, he heard from Providence management expressing concern over his email. An hour after that, the manager called him back saying he was placed on leave. Six days after that, he was fired.

Attorney Dan Le Roux of Unlawful Termination Lawyers, LLC, filed the suit on behalf of Hoshour. 

You can reach Nick Budnick at [email protected] or at @NickBudnick on Twitter.