Supporters of nurses march across from Providence Medical Center on May 5, 2021 in in Everett, Washington. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Supporters of nurses march across from Providence Medical Center on May 5, 2021 in in Everett, Washington. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

House backs hospital staffing standards bill by wide margin

Legislation is a hard-fought compromise between hospitals and nurses. It cleared the House on a 92-6 vote.

OLYMPIA — A bill prescribing new procedures for drafting, deploying and enforcing of hospital staffing plans passed by an overwhelming margin in the state House on Thursday and will now go to the governor for signing.

Senate Bill 5236 requires a committee of administrators and nurses of a hospital to agree on how many nursing staff will be assigned in each patient care unit, and how workers will be assured of getting proper rest and meal breaks. Those details will be written into staffing plans.

Those plans are due to the state by January 2025 and must be implemented six months later. Over time, hospitals must file regular reports on their compliance with staffing plans to the state Department of Health, as well as Labor & Industries. Those found to be out of compliance too much of the time could be fined thousands of dollars, according to the bill.

Hospitals with fewer than 25 acute care licensed beds and certified as critical access hospitals are exempt from some of the bill’s provisions.

The bill represents a compromise between hospitals and nurses, who fought each other on staffing standards last session.

It does not mandate minimum staffing levels, often called ratios, which nurses have long sought. It will give nurses a stronger voice in establishing working conditions and make hospitals do a lot more reporting to the state when they are not sufficiently staffed, supporters said.

Senate Bill 5236 cleared the House on a 92-6 vote. The Senate passed the measure 35-13.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623;; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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