Asante Puts Profits Ahead of Patients. It’s Time to Put People First.

by Annette Higgins

To my colleagues,

I’m one of the people who cares for you or your family member when the worst happens: a difficult cancer diagnosis finds you in the Oncology Department at Asante. 

For nearly two decades, I’ve been proud to stand by Medford families in these dark moments and done everything in my power to help with their healing. Our hospital is the heartbeat of our community; my neighbors, children, and grandchildren all count on the care they receive here when they need it most. The difference I’ve made for others in their most challenging times has given me purpose, as much as it has given my patients peace.

Now however, it’s never been harder for us to give our community the quality care everyone deserves. And that’s because Asante has been putting profits ahead of patients and us.

I used to go home at the end of each shift feeling pride in what I’d done. Now, I leave emotionally wrecked knowing that Asante isn’t providing us with the resources necessary to take care of our patients the way we want to.

We are understaffed across departments; on any given night, CNAs at Asante are tasked with caring for up to 16 patients at once – dangerously poor staffing levels that put patient outcomes at heightened risk and can lead to an increase in sentinel events. When Asante doesn’t allow for enough staff to sterilize surgical equipment so our hospital is ready in an emergency, or to keep the hospital clean and patients fed, care suffers and outcomes worsen.

In my unit, we have been forced to delay life-saving chemotherapy treatments for cancer patients, because we don’t have enough staff to administer the treatment. 

It’s unacceptable. 

The root of the problem is Asante’s misplaced priorities. They’ve been putting their money, including nearly $50 million in federal COVID bailouts, into executive paychecks and bonuses instead of patient care.

In 2020 Asante’s CEO Scott Kelly and Rogue Regional’s CEO Mick Zdeblick were paid a combined $1.8 million and handed bonuses of $255,999 and $103,840 respectively, while denying the frontline workers risking our lives in their hospital promised raises; leaving us to battle the COVID-19 crisis alone while they paid us wages so low we were forced to choose between buying groceries or paying our bills. While we face financial insecurity, Asante is raking in more money from patients than ever, with patient revenue at the hospital increasing by over 50% in 2022 compared to 2012. 

Unionized nursing home workers in Oregon with zero years of experience make the same pay I make with 17 years of experience at Asante. Our pay is so low that Rogue Regional workers, including me, often work the equivalent of two full-time jobs at Asante to provide for our families. Instead of paying living wages, Asante has a food bank for its own employees because so many of us struggle to survive on the pennies we get.

I work 60 to 70 hours a week to pay my bills, missing out on time I’ll never get back with my grandchildren – missing out on the storytimes, bike rides, and daily joys of life with them. It’s gut-wrenching to have to choose between our families and our paychecks. It’s even worse when our hospital system withholds support and resources our patients need in order to increase their bottom line. 

While Asante wants what is best for their bottom line, we want what’s best for the Medford community. That’s why all of us, together—more than one thousand CNAs, Dietary Specialists, EVS, ED Techs, transporters, and other frontline healthcare workers—decided to take matters into our own hands and form a new union at Rogue Regional. 

This summer, when nearly the entire hospital is union, we will have a real say and a voice to make this a better place to work and get care. Everyone who works at the hospital contributes to patient care, and every voice will matter in our union. Together, united with RNs and Techs, we will be able to speak in one powerful voice that will make a difference. 

Our families, our patients and our community are counting on us. 

Join me in signing our pledge to Vote Yes for a better Asante.