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

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

With influx of patients, Everett hospital’s ER is overwhelmed

Providence set up a command center and diverted resources. A nurse said we’re watching “the collapse of health care.”

EVERETT — Providence Regional Medical Center is in dire straits after its emergency department was overwhelmed this week.

The Everett hospital opened a command center Monday and funneled staff and resources from other departments to handle an inundation of patients.

Chief Executive Darren Redick said the emergency department generally has a “handful” of patients waiting for beds elsewhere in the hospital. On Monday, there were about 70.

Days before, the hospital paused admissions to its pediatric unit due to a lack of nurses.

Providence nurse Kelli Johnson said it’s been the worst week she’s ever seen in the emergency department, with patient-to-nurse ratios tripling in some instances.

“We’re watching the collapse of health care,” she told The Daily Herald. “I’ve come in at 4:30 in the morning watching doctors cry to other doctors about how terribly unsafe it is, and how they’re watching their patients tank.”

Redick said the situation is a product of ongoing nurse burnout, COVID hospitalizations and about 100 patients waiting to be discharged to less acute care facilities. Providence’s two Everett campuses are trying to hire “well over 250 nurses,” Redick said.

“I would characterize it as a continuation of what we’ve seen throughout the pandemic. I think part of the challenge is time,” he said. “The same is continuing over a longer period of time, which is creating more burnout and challenges for our workforce.”

Surgeries are being paused, Redick said, but that’s nothing new.

“Just to be frank, we’ve had our surgical procedure leaders, physicians and nurse leaders and support teams meeting pretty much daily since last August to review surgical cases,” he said. “On and off since last fall we’ve been canceling cases, delaying cases, rescheduling cases as a matter of routine.”

The issue is statewide, though regional hospitals like Providence are being hit hardest, according to state officials.

“Hospitals and emergency departments are reporting significant stress,” Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, the state’s chief science officer, told reporters Wednesday.

Meanwhile, emergency departments are bracing for a busy summer, when injuries tend to increase.

“We are particularly concerned about the upcoming holiday weekend, which tends to be a busy one for emergency department visits,” said Beth Zborowski, with the Washington State Hospital Association.

The state’s deputy secretary for emergency preparedness and response, Nate Weed, encouraged residents to attend professional fireworks displays this weekend, instead of lighting off their own, and to take extra precautions if swimming or boating in open waters.

Providence hospital will re-evaluate its situation Friday, Redick said, and try to get emergency department capacity back to normal levels in preparation for the weekend.

Redick said the main issue is “having enough nurses available in the pipeline.”

But many nurses say otherwise. Frustration is mounting after the state Legislature failed to pass a bill setting minimum hospital staffing levels. The proposal was backed by exhausted nurses who cited dangerous conditions for workers and patients. Hospital executives argued the bill wouldn’t bulk up the talent pool, which they said was the root issue of staffing problems.

“Health care workers told the Legislature that without having (staffing standards), this is what’s going to happen,” said Kendra Valdez, UFCW 3000 staff director. “And we’re seeing the result of that.”

She said higher wages and bonuses would incentivize workers to pick up more shifts, remain in the field, or take a job at the hospital in the first place.

“There are solutions, and I think if hospitals talked to the nurses and workers, they’d hear the solutions,” she said. “The problem is there’s nothing holding them to that right now.”

A lack of incoming nurses is “half the story,” one telemetry nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Herald. She said nurses stopped taking overtime shifts around April when they were no longer offered a bonus to do so.

“They’re not offering more money,” she said. “They’re not offering incentive for people to come in other than just saying ‘pretty please.’”

Johnson said her colleagues are scared they’ll be so stretched thin that patients will get hurt, and they’ll lose their license.

“Your answer to the staffing problem is, ‘There’s not enough nurses to go around.’ Well, I call (expletive),” Johnson said. “It’s a money issue. The easiest way for them to reduce that loss of of income (during the pandemic) is by cutting staff.”

In a statement to The Herald, Providence spokesperson Casey Calamusa said there are no quick fixes.

“Hospitals in Washington state are competing in a national market for both permanent and temporary staff,” he wrote, adding that money for more nursing education slots and clinical placements would help.

The hospital is trying to rely less on travel nurses, temporary and high-paid positions that weary health care workers flocked to during the pandemic. Meanwhile, inflation and supply chain issues mean hospitals like Providence “have suffered staggering operating losses.”

“Yet the for-profit insurers, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies and staffing agencies have logged record-breaking profits throughout the pandemic,” Calamusa wrote.

Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @yawclaudia.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Patrick Kunz speaks during his sentencing on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett gymnastics coach who spied on students sentenced to 6 months

Patrick Kunz, 47, pleaded guilty to charges of voyuerism and possession of child pornography last month.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
Everett transgender mechanic alleges Boeing treated her ‘like a zoo animal’

For years, Boeing allowed toxicity “to fester and grow” at its Everett factory, according to Rachel Rasmussen, an employee from 1989 to 2024.

Monroe High School (Monroe School District)
Monroe High School teacher accused of sexual misconduct, put on leave

Few details were not available Thursday afternoon. Police were seeking information from the public.

After 10 months, police make arrest in fatal Everett shooting

Police believe Malik “Capone” Fulson killed Joseph Haderlie, 27, in April 2023 outside an apartment complex on Casino Road.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

Ryan Rafter appears in court for sentencing Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Man sentenced to life in prison for murder of Everett father

In April 2022, Ryan Rafter, 42, shot Christopher Buck, 29, to death after breaking in to his home to steal drugs.

Driver strikes, kills Marysville man who was crossing I-5 in Seattle

The man’s car had broken down near Mercer Street. Troopers reported that he was struck when he tried to cross the freeway.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Police: Darrington woman stabbed, buried 5-year-old daughter

The woman reportedly told investigators she was hearing voices before she killed her young daughter on Valentine’s Day.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.