“Harborview is our community’s safety net hospital, but right now they’re not acting like it,” said Rebecca Talbot Bluechel, RN. “Tired nurses can’t provide the safest care. I’m with my patients between life and death in the OR, with my hands holding their bodies together. Safety should come first, staffing should come first.”
Nurses and health care workers are calling for Harborview to address staffing concerns with an expansion of the successful break relief nurse program, which calls for dedicated nurse staffing to ensure patients always have access to the care they need and staff can safely take breaks, and a guarantee on maximum patient load to ensure patients aren’t “doubled up,” with an additional eye on safety for both staff and patients. The hospital has rejected those solutions.
Nurses and health care workers call these solutions the right approach for Harborview’s patients, instead of an approach by Harborview that workers call shortsighted.
Instead of addressing staffing solutions with more staff, the hospital proposes to continue “call shifts” for techs, which should be used for emergencies, but workers report are used to cover anticipated shortages or planned procedures. Many techs report working “on call” for up to a week, and some report working shifts of more than 24 hours at a time while managing critical patient cases.
The hospital intends to expand upon this practice with a proposal to roll out mandatory call for certain units of registered nurses, which would require nurses to work their full FTE and be “on call” additional hours, raising concerns that nurses would be working lengthy periods while fatigued.
Local lawmakers including King County Councilmembers joined workers in raising concerns.
“King County government owns this hospital and the ground on which it’s built. We need to do everything we can to hold UW Medicine accountable to running this hospital in a way that’s good for patients and healthy and accountable to its workers,” said King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.
Harborview Medical Center is owned by King County, governed by the Harborview Board of Trustees, and managed under contract by the University of Washington. The operating agreement between University of Washington and King County is up for renewal and currently being negotiated.
Nurses and health care workers picketed before and after their shifts and during breaks. The current contract expired June 30, 2015.