Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Providence responds to critical letter from Everett, county councils

It’s the latest chapter in an ongoing conversation about nurses’ concerns around exhaustion and short staffing at the Everett hospital.

EVERETT — Providence Swedish leaders will hold regular listening sessions with caregivers, provide incentive pay for extra shifts and redesign care delivery at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, according to a six-page letter from hospital leadership responding to Everett and Snohomish County elected officials.

In the letter Providence detailed:

• Monthly open forums with caregivers.

• The chief nursing officer and CEO making rounds with frontline workers.

• An increase in the number of nursing assistants on care teams.

“I think the letter shows that they are being responsive and that they are looking to find solutions,” said Megan Dunn, chair of the County Council.

County Council and Everett City Council members had sent a joint letter earlier this month to Providence leaders about nurse staffing concerns at the Everett hospital campuses. Nurses have attended city and county council public meetings for months, raising concerns about low morale, high turnover and dangerous nurse-patient ratios.

Some argued that their coworkers have left for higher-paying or less-stressful nursing jobs, or have left the field altogether.

The council members had asked Providence to open the union contract early to “arrive at a mutually-agreeable path forward to address the current staffing crisis.” Providence wrote that it would consider “expedited bargaining” to renew the contract that expires in October 2023.

The letter was signed by longtime nurse Kristy Carrington, who is serving as interim chief executive of Providence Swedish North Puget Sound, and Tony Ohl, chair of Providence Northwest Washington’s Community Mission Board.

Dunn, a Democrat, remains concerned because some nurses have told her Providence is holding listening sessions, but not really hearing them.

“When you dig a little deeper, I’m seeing Providence fall short,” she said.

All of this comes amid “immense operational and financial challenges” facing hospitals and health care systems everywhere, Providence wrote. For the first nine months of 2022, the Everett hospital has lost more than $110 million. Its parent company reported operating losses of $1.1 billion. Providence claimed it is making “a significant reduction in executive and administrative staff.”

County Council member Nate Nehring, a Republican who teamed up to draft the city and county councils’ letter with Dunn, said he hopes they can partner with Providence.

“While there are certainly some nationwide issues at play, I think it’s important to acknowledge that nurses have also raised issues unique to Providence Everett, which must be addressed in order to improve conditions for nurses and patients. Local leaders stand ready to assist in any way we can,” Nehring wrote in a statement.

Providence suggested a number of state policy and legislative changes that could help alleviate the staffing shortage, such as:

• Student loan repayment assistance for nurses in Washington hospitals.

• Increased capacity of nursing education and clinical practice programs.

• Regulating the hiring process between staffing agencies and hospitals, to encourage more direct hiring of nurses. Currently, the staffing agencies can charge exorbitant fees for any permanent hires.

In response, Dunn said the council would definitely talk with the hospital leadership and the nurses to support policy solutions. She is concerned about getting more nurses into hospitals immediately, as is Providence.

“We want to see our hospitals be successful in providing care,” Dunn said. “Nurses are doing what they do best, caring for our community. The more we can find common ground and keep dialogue open, the better.”

Casey Calamusa, spokesperson for Providence, confirmed that hospital leaders have met with members of the councils over the past week.

Joy Borkholder is the health and wellness reporter for The Daily Herald. Her work is supported by the Health Reporting Initiative, which is sponsored in part by Premera Blue Cross. The Daily Herald maintains editorial control over content produced through this initiative.

Joy Borkholder: 425-339-3430; joy.borkholder@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jlbinvestigates.

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