Forum: Community needs to stand with nurses for safe staffing

Nurses at Providence’s Everett hospital are warning of threats to patient safety because of poor staffing levels.

By Hayden Jones / Herald Forum

Nurse staffing conditions are patient care conditions. Right now those conditions leave a lot to be desired at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

I was one of several community members who attended the town hall in August to listen to nurses discuss their ongoing contract negotiations with Providence management (“Providence nurses: Conditions at Everett hospital still dire, or worse,” The Herald, Aug. 14). The conditions at the hospital should frighten the community. The emergency department is so above capacity that patients overflow into the lobby. In the lobby patients wait for hours there, often being treated there instead of the emergency room.

This situation is caused at least in part by short staffing and non-competitive pay.

As The Herald reported, “Since the covid-19 pandemic began, the Everett hospital has gone from 2,000 nurses on staff to about 1,400, nurses said. Despite an already strained staff, they said, corporate ended contracts with travel nurses and lowered hourly pay.”

It is hardly surprising then that quality of care has declined.

On the day of the town hall, Providence Interim CEO Kristy Carrington took out a two-page ad in The Herald deceptively framing their below-market contract negotiations offers. Providence expressed its hourly rate in a percentage comparing it to other hospitals in the area receiving a similar percentage increase. The quiet part that Carrington does not mention is that the Providence nurses start from a lower payscale and so that percentage increase does not give them market rate pay.

Those of us in the greater Everett and Snohomish County community need to back the nurses in contract negotiations. As of Aug. 26 nurses are back at the bargaining table. UFCW 3000, the union representing the nurses, has been doing everything it can to inform the public about these issues. Banner waving on Broadway, leafletting at AquaSox games and the farmers market. Nurses are taking on a just fight for patient safety, and accountability between Providence and the local community.

If Providence continues to make substandard offers then it could come to a strike, the first since 1999. We need to support these nurses if it comes to that. The community should donate to the nurses hardship fund, join them on the picket line, bring food, and put up yard signs, and anything else we can do. It is not just morally right, but also makes it safer for all of us who might have to receive care at Providence.

It is a shame that the hospital’s leadership won’t take anything else seriously.

Hayden Jones lives in Everett.

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