WSNA's priorities for the 2021 Legislative Session #

WSNA is the leading voice and advocate for the profes­sional inter­ests of regis­tered nurses who live and work in Washington state.

Budget priorities

School nurse funding #

Increase funding for nursing hours to safely reopen schools. Nearly half of Washington schools have a nurse onsite less than one day a week. School nurses are being called on to lead COVID-19 infec­tion preven­tion and mitiga­tion proto­cols, provide daily symptom checks and collab­o­rate with their local public health depart­ments – in addition to their regular duties. Some wealthier districts have hired COVID-19 response teams with roles defined by OSPI, led by the school nurse; funding should be provided to increase school nursing hours and to allow districts to have equitable access to quality COVID-19 response teams. Schools must be provided appro­priate and safe levels of PPE for all staff and students.

Public health funding #

For 20 years, we have asked the legis­la­ture to find a dedicated and sustain­able public health funding stream. The time is now. Our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we need to rebuild our national, state and local public health systems.

Nurse education funding #

Preserve the state’s invest­ment in nursing faculty in commu­nity and technical college schools of nursing. The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need to graduate more highly skilled nurses, and this funding is critical to recruiting and retaining nurse educators.

Policy priorities

Health system transparency #

As state and federal govern­ments pour money into hospi­tals and health care facil­i­ties amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there is little ability to track how this funding is being distrib­uted and dispersed. Hospi­tals have blamed pandemic-related actions for revenue loss which has resulted in employee layoffs and furloughs, but hospi­tals have failed to provide data to support that asser­tion. Even before the pandemic, it was hard to track the adequacy and efficacy of health system charity care and commu­nity benefit. Hospi­tals have not provided data to show whether these programs are working as intended to address commu­nity health needs and to reduce health dispar­i­ties felt most acutely by commu­ni­ties of color. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for clear, trans­parent reporting of health care facility PPE levels and testing capacity to ensure worker and patient safety across the state.

Worker protections and workplace safety #

It is imper­a­tive that the legis­la­ture support the Worker Protec­tion Act and improve workplace safety, partic­u­larly for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. The pandemic has identi­fied policies that can be improved to ensure worker safety, such as employer-provided PPE, testing, paid sick leave, workers compen­sa­tion coverage and protec­tion against retal­i­a­tion. Addition­ally, the Worker Protec­tion Act provides a way for workers to effec­tively raise safety complaints and to have them addressed in a timely, just manner by giving workers and their advocates the ability to enforce labor and anti-discrim­i­na­tion laws on behalf of the state when the state is unable to do so itself. This is especially critical for enforce­ment of existing labor and workplace protections.

Racial equity and justice #

Racism is as much a public health emergency as the COVID-19 pandemic. It is time for the legis­la­ture to delib­er­ately work to undo systems founded on oppres­sion and to replace them with budget and policy decisions that lift up commu­ni­ties of color. Within the health care space, we must remove systemic barriers to accessing health care. We must also work within our profes­sional capacity to recog­nize and address bias and to ensure all patients are being listened to and heard. The current pandemic is having a dispro­por­tionate impact on the health of commu­ni­ties of color. These commu­ni­ties are contracting COVID-19 and dying at higher rates than their white counter­parts. Commu­ni­ties of color are also experi­encing a larger economic impact, including greater rates of job and health insur­ance loss. The public health crises of coron­avirus and racism are insep­a­rable. As the legis­la­ture moves to address the COVID-19 pandemic, it should work with equal deter­mi­na­tion to address systemic racism in all areas of state policy.

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