Forum: Hospital waiting rooms shouldn’t be patient warehouses

Why are hospitals, like Providence, understaffed with nurses, leaving patients to wait for hours for care?

By Shari Berg / Herald Forum

As I write this, an 89-year-old woman is sitting in the emergency waiting room at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

She is uncomfortable and cannot have her family around her. She was brought in by ambulance with possible internal bleeding. She was told to go to the emergency room by her doctor after having been monitored by the DispatchHealth team while at home. It is midnight and she has been waiting for a room for almost seven hours since she arrived. She was given an IV and is being monitored, but the emergency room is so busy and the hospital is so short-staffed, that no one can say when she’ll get a room and care. This woman is my mom.

Security guards at the hospital will not allow family to be with the patient until they are in a room. Rooms are not available on the floors, so patients sit in the emergency department and sometimes never get into a different area of the hospital. This means that new patients coming in cannot get a room and must be treated in the waiting area.

Our hospital systems are failing. This is happening all over the country. Providence’s new building seems obsolete before it was even finished being built. Between population increases in the area and the increase in drug overdoses, among other strains on the system, there is just not enough room for all the patients needing help on a daily basis. During covid, nurses left the hospitals and went on to other jobs. Pay is not keeping up with the demand and stress is put on the nurses who did stay. Providence needs more money, more doctors, more nurses and more room to grow. It is only going to get worse.

We notice when an area is growing that the roads are more congested and the markets are busier. We notice the houses and apartments that are being built around us but do we think about the strain put on the hospitals as an area’s population continues to grow? Providence is commonly treating patients in the waiting room. They have no choice. Families cannot be with the patient unless they are in a room. Everyone is frustrated by the circumstances that exist in our hospitals. The hospitals are doing their best with what they have. I have seen Providence go from a busy hospital to an overwhelmed one.

Back in 2022, nurses in our state sponsored a bill to require hospitals to have minimum staffing requirements. Nurses are seeing dangerous situations happen all the time as they are having to handle too many patients at once. The bill did not pass. How do I know this? My daughter was one of the nurses working at Providence who left for a different nursing job after the stresses of the hospital got too much for her.

She started her career at Providence and had been there for over 10 years. Things were bad back then and they are worse now.

Your local hospital’s emergency room may not be on your mind but it should be. You don’t think about it unless you need it and all of us will probably need it for something, someday. We need to let our state representatives know that our hospitals are in trouble. They are in desperate need of help. More funding needs to be given to the hospitals so they can keep up with demand and if the nurses are telling you that the patient situation is bordering on dangerous because of staffing shortages, then they shouldn’t be ignored.

By the way, it has now been 15 hours and my mom is still not in a room.

Sherri Barg lives in Everett.

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