OLYMPIA ꟷ After weeks of negotiations, the Washington State Hospital Association has reached a compromise position on Senate Bill 5236, the hospital staffing bill.
WSHA worked with the prime bill sponsor, union representatives and other key legislators to identify a way forward to address concerns raised by staff in some hospitals while also ensuring patients across Washington state will maintain access to essential services. The bill that passed out of the Ways and Means Committee last week is expected to be amended on the Senate floor with the compromise language.
The agreed-upon bill amendment removes mandated staff to patient ratios and strengthens the current nurse staffing committee model. Under the law, staffing plans are set collaboratively between management and staff at the local level and are filed with the state. The amendment requires hospitals to meet their staffing plans 80 percent of the time or face a corrective action plan and penalties developed by the state Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). The new language also gives L&I a greater role in investigating staffing complaints in addition to the DOH.
“We all want to support hospital staff and also ensure access to health care for our communities,” said Chelene Whiteaker, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at WSHA. “We are pleased to be able to reach an agreement that recognizes the importance of the voice of staff at the local level, who are best positioned to develop staffing plans that appropriately match the needs of patients with the experience of staff.”
WSHA is continuing to meet with legislators and union representatives to finalize agreement on language for the proposed amendment.
In addition to this compromise language, WSHA supports a number of bills aimed at recruiting, retaining and building the health care workforce in Washington, including student loan repayment for nurses, joining the nurse licensure compact, and increasing funding for nurse preceptors, who help train new nurses.