Pre-scheduled on-call legislative language threatens organ transplants in Washington

March 14, 2019

I, along with many health care professionals and leaders, am highly alarmed by legislation proposing to restrict the use of on-call in Olympia. This legislation, if enacted, would have broad and sweeping unintended consequences to patients. House Bill 1155/Senate Bill 5190 would introduce rigid restrictions on the use of on-call staffing and overtime, prohibiting hospitals from using overtime and pre-scheduled on-call as tools for staff, except in emergency situations. Under the proposed law, non-emergent care, such as organ transplants, wouldn’t qualify.

An organ donation typically becomes available because of the organ donor’s death, which is not predictable. Because of this, hospitals rely on mandatory on-call to cover organ transplant surgeries. Hospitals cannot afford to have a transplant team staffed and standing by at all times. If these bills were enacted, it would become very difficult for Washington residents to receive organ transplants.

I am working hard to ensure that Washington residents receive the highest-quality care available, and that hospitals have the resources and support to provide that care. The ability to utilize pre-scheduled on-call as a staffing tool is essential for hospitals to serve their patients.

The threat to organ transplants is just one example of the numerous unintended consequences of prohibiting pre-scheduled on-call. Delaying non-emergent care may result in great harm to many other patients, such as those waiting for placement of a heart stent or a port for chemotherapy. Limiting pre-scheduled on-call in hospitals could have grave impacts on Washington residents.

Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington Medical Center, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Swedish Health Services all provide organ transplant services to patients of all ages. We at WSHA are supporting them in writing a letter to their legislators addressing the potential impact of this legislation. I encourage others to voice their concerns about the impact of HB 1155 and SB 5190 on Washington patients.

Washington residents deserve accessible, first-rate health care in order for them to achieve the best possible patient outcomes. The team at WSHA will continue dedicating ourselves to this goal.


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