Staffing bill passage a major step forward in ensuring safe staffing

HB1714 ensures trans­parency and account­ability for hospital nurse staffing plans

The Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion applauds the legis­la­ture for passing the Patient Safety Act today, addressing WSNA’s top issue of safe staffing. The bill creates greater trans­parency and account­ability for nurse staffing plans and the work of nurse staffing commit­tees in hospitals.

This bill, which now moves to the Governor for his signa­ture, repre­sents a real step forward in our ongoing work to hold hospi­tals account­able for staffing so that nurses can deliver safe, high quality care to their patients.

Passage of the Patient Safety Act repre­sents a real milestone in our ongoing fight to ensure safe staffing,” said Judy Huntington, MN, RN, execu­tive director of the Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion. This legisla­tive victory is a cause for celebra­tion. We have been fighting this fight for decades – and we will continue the fight for safe staffing. We will fight in the legis­la­ture, in the courts and at the negoti­ating table. Our patients are counting on us.”

This legisla­tive session, WSNA worked with other union stake­holders and hospi­tals on this negoti­ated bill that builds on the 2008 staffing law to strengthen our staffing commit­tees and increase trans­parency of hospital nurse staffing plans across the state.

HB 1714 increases trans­parency of nurse staffing plans in hospi­tals around the state by amending the current staffing law to:

  • Require hospi­tals to accept the staffing committee’s staffing plan or to prepare an alter­na­tive annual staffing plan that will be adopted by the hospital.
  • Requires hospi­tals to submit the adopted staffing plan and subse­quent changes to the staffing plan to the Washington State Depart­ment of Health begin­ning January 1, 2019.
  • Requires the hospital to imple­ment the staffing plan and assign nursing personnel to each patient care unit in accor­dance with the plan begin­ning January 1, 2019.
  • Allow a nurse to report to, and file a complaint with, the staffing committee any time the nurse personnel assign­ment is not in accor­dance with the adopted staffing plan.
  • Allows nurses who may disagree with the shift-to-shift adjust­ments in staffing levels to submit a complaint to the staffing committee.
  • Require staffing commit­tees to develop a process to examine and respond to submitted complaints, and to deter­mine if a complaint is resolved or dismissed based on unsub­stan­ti­ated data.
  • Require the Washington State Depart­ment of Health to inves­ti­gate complaints with documented evidence for failure to:
    • Form or estab­lish a staffing committee;
    • Conduct a semi-annual review of a nurse staffing plan;
    • Submit a nurse staffing plan on an annual basis and any updates;
    • Follow the nursing staff personnel assign­ments as adopted by the hospital based on the complaints compiled by the staffing committee that include aggre­gate data that show a contin­uing pattern of unresolved viola­tions for a minimum 60-day contin­uous period.
    • Excep­tions include unfore­see­able emergent circum­stances and documented reason­able efforts by hospital to obtain staffing to meet required assignments.
  • Require hospi­tals to submit a correc­tive action plan within 45 days if the Washington State Depart­ment of Health (DOH) finds a viola­tion – and, if the hospital fails to submit a correc­tive action plan or doesn’t follow its correc­tive action plan, DOH may impose a civil penalty of $100 per day until the hospital submits a correc­tive action plan, begins to follow a correc­tive action plan, or takes other action agreed to by DOH.
  • Require the Washington State Depart­ment of Health to maintain public inspec­tion records of any civil penal­ties, admin­is­tra­tive actions, or license suspen­sions or revoca­tions imposed on hospitals.
  • Requires the Washington State Depart­ment of Health to submit a report to the legis­la­ture by December 31, 2020, on the number of complaints submitted, inves­ti­gated, associ­ated costs to DOH, and any recom­mended changes to statute. 
  • Requires a stake­holder group including WSNA to review the report before it is submitted to the legislature.
  • This act expires on June 1, 2023.