Statesman Examiner

New Bill Aims To Help Hospital Staff Shortages

- By Brandon Hansen / For The Statesman plan, saying it would make the problem worse since there already isn’t enough nurses. A version of this bill was

A Washington State Legislatur­e law aims to make hospitals adopt safe staffing standards, which would mean a number of staff members would be assigned to a set number of patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighte­d many staffing issues in the country’s hospital systems that had existed for years. With an influx of COVID- 19 hospitaliz­ations, not only did hospitals run out of beds but more importantl­y they ran out of staff that could care for those patients on the beds.

Burnout has been a huge issue among healthcare staff and this has resulted in further staff shortages.

The bill would make the Department of Labor and Industries in charge of managing staffing committees. Hospitals would be required to have these committees with half of the committee members being nurses and patient care staff and the other half being decided by hospital administra­tion. These committees would have to submit staffing plans to Labor and Industries.

If staffing plans are not adopted, the hospital would be subject to daily fines of $ 5K for large hospitals and $ 100 for rural hospitals.

Hospitals could deviate from their plan if there were unforeseen circumstan­ces like an emergency. The hospitals, however, could not do this for more than 90 days without approval from staffing committees. L& I would then investigat­e complaints about said committees.

Currently, hospitals do have staffing committees but there is no enforcemen­t mechanism within the healthcare system. This new bill would create a third party investigat­ing staffing issues.

The Washington State Hospital Associatio­n said that hospitals wouldn’t meet staff- to patient ratios now, while nurses and other healthcare worker organizati­ons support the bill. Some nurses said the ideal ratio would be three- to- four patients per nurse but that it would depend on the type of nurse and unit. Currently, nurses contend, having just three patients is very rare now.

Republican Senate Minority Leader John Brain (R- Centralia) opposed the proposed last year that would have set staff- to- patient ratios

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