NEWS
November 17, 2022

WA Patient Dies in Understaffed ER Lobby, County Council Pens Letter of "Disappointment"

WA Patient Dies in Understaffed ER Lobby, County Council Pens Letter of "Disappointment"

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett is under fire after a patient died in the ER waiting room earlier this month. Unfortunately, like most major healthcare systems throughout the country, Providence is also suffering from a severe nursing shortage and staffing crisis that has hit the ER exceptionally hard.

Everett City and Snohomish County council members signed a letter expressing “disappointment” about the ongoing low staffing, particularly among nurses. The letter was sent and addressed to “Providence Hospital Leadership" and opened with the following statement, "We, the undersigned, are collectively writing to express our disappointment and share our concerns with Providence leadership’s handling of the staffing crisis amongst nurses. This staffing crisis is a public health issue and it’s directly impacting the community we serve."

>>Read the full letter here. 

The letter also had suggestions and potential actions including,

• Meet in good faith with the nurses to hear them out on their concerns as well as ideas for how to improve the quality of care for patients.

• Advocate for funding or regulatory changes in state law which might assist in addressing staffing issues. Solicit your partners in local government to include these same items in their legislative advocacy efforts.

• Reinstate the practice of collecting exit interview data following nurse resignations in order to make improvements and inform future staffing-related decisions. We further encourage efforts to collect this information from the past year for previous resignations.

• Start at the top when savings need to be made, such as eliminating pay raises for high-level leadership in order to shift the focus toward competitive wages and benefits for nurses.

• Provide incentives for nurses, such as hazard pay or a retention bonus.

• Enter into early contract negotiations with the nurses’ union in order to arrive at a mutually-agreeable path forward to address the current staffing crisis.

• Once significant changes have been put into practice, make a good faith effort to reinstate nurses who had resigned over workplace issues.”

The letter is a direct result of a patient dying in the lobby of the hospital’s emergency room on November 3rd. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the death and that an autopsy report is being conducted. At this time, no additional information regarding the patient or cause of death has been released.

The hospital, according to Providence Swedish North Puget Sound interim CEO Kristy Carrington, is looking into the patient’s death and the ER processes. According to the statement, the hospital will treat any patient “regardless of the location within the department.”

“We are deeply saddened by this incident and our deepest sympathies are with the patient’s family and loved ones,” Carrington wrote. “We are providing on-site counselors for the patient’s family, our nurses, caregivers and physicians.”

Kelli Johnson, an ER nurse for over two years at Providence, said, “It demonstrates the gravity and the importance of the issue at hand.”

“You get to a point where you don’t have room to see patients walking through the door who need to get stabilized,” Johnson said.

Carrington indicated that she, as well as the new chief nursing officer, are making changes focused on retention, recruitment, and redoing care delivery. There was a cash incentive offered to nurses to pick up additional shifts but it hasn’t attracted enough nurses to make a difference.

Johnson also said that some nurses were getting “tripled,” meaning nurses that generally have one or two patients were now taking care of three ER patients.

“We’re watching the collapse of health care,” she said. “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.”

Nurses, including Johnson, have spoken at city and county council meetings since early summer. They have voiced their concerns regarding safe staffing and the quality of care provided to patients. On November 10, 2022, the Healthcare Union UFCW3000 published an update on the staffing situation at Providence Regional Medical Center. 

Providence Regional Medical Center has not yet responded to Nurse.org's request for a statement, we will update this article when they respond. 

>>Nurses, here's how to anonymously pitch nurse news stories to nurse.org editors. Nurse.org is the leading news source for the nursing community.