Whidbey General Hospital cited by Department of Health for violating state “Safe Nurse Staffing” law


Violations “may result in nurse staffing levels that do not support safe and effective patient care”

July 20, 2015 – The Washington State Department of Health has found that Whidbey General Hospital is violating the state’s “Safe Nurse Staffing” law, created in 2008 to ensure that hospitals and nurses work together to develop nurse staffing plans adequate to keep patients safe.

Last Thursday, in response to a complaint filed by the Washington State Nurses Association, DOH reported that WGH is in violation of state law by failing to “implement a Nurse Staffing Committee to develop and monitor a staffing plan” and by not giving nurses “an opportunity to present and discuss issues related to staffing.”(Read DOH report)

The DOH further commented that the failure to operationalize the Nurse Staffing Committee, with staff nurse input, “may result in nurse staffing levels that do not support safe and effective patient care.”

“We are disappointed but, sadly, not surprised that management at Whidbey General is failing to follow the ‘Safe Nurse Staffing’ law,” said Christine Himmelsbach, MN, RN, WSNA Assistant Executive Director of Labor Relations. “Again and again, Whidbey General has failed to meet contractual obligations and even state law as regards our nurses. There’s not a lot of trust as we work hard to settle a contract for our members.”

In addition to failing to implement the state staffing law, Whidbey General management has refused WNSA contract proposals regarding safe staffing during current negotiations.

Whidbey General management has not followed through with its commitments to its nurses. For example, the Hospital failed to implement a preceptor program, which provides for crucial new skill development for nursing students and nurses under the guidance of more experienced nurses, as it agreed to do during its last contract negotiations with WSNA.

“It’s no wonder we’re wary about management proposals to, for example, tie nurse pay to undefined factors to be developed sometime in the future,” Himmelsbach added. “We’ve been burned in the past.”

Registered Nurses at Whidbey General have gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions of support from community members and are planning a community barbecue and rally in support of the RNs for early August.

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Contact: Ruth Schubert, Communications & Public Relations, rschubert@wsna.org, (206) 713-788.