Washington State Fires are Still Burning, and Still Teaching Us

August 7, 2014

For weeks, the fires in Okanogan County led the news. And then… they didn’t. Because the fires were over, right?

No. In fact, many estimate that parts of Okanogan County will burn until winter, when rain and snow will finally put them to rest. There are 5 major active fires going in Okanogan, Chelan, Kittitas and Ferry counties, with more than 330 homes already lost and 3,500 still threatened. Almost 3,000 firefighters have been assigned, and 26 aircraft. The total cost of firefighting alone is more than $78,000,000.

Hospitals are an essential part of the ongoing response. But the work is not just about responding in the moment or to a specific event: it’s about planning how to respond. The more planning you do, the faster you can move when it really counts.

The federal government makes funding available to help hospitals prepare for disasters (see more here), and WSHA has made it a priority for the last 12 years to help hospitals and other healthcare partners benefit from that funding for planning, training, equipment and supplies. In close collaboration with the state Department of Health, WSHA works with hospitals statewide to identify their needs, provide educational opportunities, assist with communications, and provide technical assistance when requested.

Disaster readiness involves all levels of the organization, including housekeeping, clinical and top administrative staff. These investments of time, effort and money, over the years, have been critical to enhancing the ability to manage the continuing need for services, not just for the crises that affect large areas, but also for those crises that occur within communities and/or facilities that only may only reach the front page of the local newspaper.

The fires might be off the front page, but they’re still burning hot and dangerously. We are so appreciative of all the hospital staff who have stepped up to serve their communities, and all the firefighters and other responders who are working tirelessly to contain these fires and assist those so profoundly affected in the aftermath.

Scott Bond
WSHA President and CEO

Washington Health Alliance Names New Executive Director

The Washington Health Alliance recently announced the appointment of Nancy A. Giunto as executive director. She will assume the executive director position on September 2. “Nancy is the right person to lead the Alliance as it enters its second decade,” said Caroline Whalen, the chair of the Alliance Board of Directors and King County Administrative Officer. “Her experience as a leader in health care and as a purchaser of health care is an ideal combination for the Alliance’s work as we expand statewide and move into true cost transparency.”

Since 2000, Ms. Giunto has been executive director of Foster Pepper, a law firm with 120 attorneys and 130 staff in Seattle and Spokane. She began her career at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. and held leadership positions in Intermountain Health Care and Providence Health and Services. Read more. (Beth Zborowski, bethz@wsha.org)

King County’s Wellness Plan Beats the Odds

Where research shows that most employee wellness plans fail to improve health or save dollars, King County’s wellness program is working. In its first five years (2007 to 2011), the county’s “Healthy Incentives” program invested $15 million and saved $46 million in health care spending with sustained participation by more than 90 percent of its employees.

Employee health improved dramatically, raising King County employees’ health status above the national average and keeping it there. Smoking rates dropped from 12 percent of employees to less than 5 percent, and more than 2,000 employees classified as overweight or obese at the start of the program lost at least 5 percent of their weight, more than halving their risk of diabetes.  Read more. (Beth Zborowski, bethz@wsha.org)

Joint Commission Issues Event Alert on Vial Misuse

The Joint Commission has issued a Sentinel Event Alert, “Preventing infection from the misuse of vials,” describing factors that contribute to the misuse of vials and recommended strategies for improvement. Patients exposed to vial misuse have become infected with the hepatitis B or C virus, meningitis, and other types of infections. Reusing single dose vials and using the same syringe for multiple-dose vials are the common culprit. For more information about sentinel events, visit The Joint Commission website. (Rebecca Snyders, rebeccas@wsha.org)

Handwashing: It’s for Patients Too

A recent article in Infection Control Today emphasizes that patients should be an important part of any hand hygiene campaign. “No longer considered an abstract philosophy, patient engagement and its importance for hand hygiene has been defined. Implementation strategies are being perfected. Many of these strategies have focused on patients’ monitoring of health care workers’ behaviors alone. But the hands of patients themselves are prominent links in the HAI transmission chain that can’t be ignored.” The article, which cites several studies of patient hand washing behavior in and out of the hospital, can be found here. (Rebecca Snyders, rebeccas@wsha.org)

Free Education Session Focusing on Healing Veterans

“Healing Our Heroes: Serving Rural Veterans Behavioral Health Needs,” takes place September 23, 2014 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Liberty Inn in DuPont, Washington.This free event is focused on educating primary healthcare providers, behavioral health specialists and community advocates in understanding the needs of veterans by providing information on military culture, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide prevention, and resources available through the VA Healthcare System.

To register and learn more, please visit the event information page here. Please note seating is limited to 60 participants, and priority registration is given to rural providers.(Jeff Mero, jeffm@awphd.org)

Bree Collaborative Report To Improve Lumbar Fusion Patient Safety and Costs Available for Review

The Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative (Bree Collaborative) recently released its draft report on Lumbar Fusion Surgery Bundle for public comment. The report was developed by a panel of experts and contains important recommendations which aim to improve patient safety and reduce costs associated with lumbar fusions.

WSHA is holding discussions with Bree Collaborative representatives and is using 2013 hospital discharge data (CHARS) to assess the volume of lumbar fusions and the geographic distribution in Washington State. A WSHA Bulletin with some analysis and identification of issues is forthcoming.

At WSHA’s request, the Bree Collaborative agreed to extend public comments through August 19, 2014. We encourage you to review the Bulletin when it is released and submit comment on the report here.

Recommendations from the Bree Collaborative will be considered by the Health Care Authority and private payers for health care purchasing. (Ian Corbridge, ianc@wsha.org)

Voters Approve New Public Hospital District in Grays Harbor County 

Washington State has a new public hospital district after voters in Grays Harbor County yesterday approved the creation of a new county hospital district. Seven new commissioners were also elected to serve on its board. While three new members have prior experience working in the district, others come from a variety of backgrounds. Read more. (Deborah Swets, deborahs@wsha.org)

Healthcare System Recovery – Financial Sustainability After a Disaster

In the wake of recent financially crippling catastrophic disasters like Superstorm Sandy, the DHHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is sponsoring a webinar that will address how hospitals and other health care organizations can plan to recovery financially from a disaster.

The call is Thursday, August 21, 2014 from 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM EDT. The call will address questions such as “Does my acute care hospital quality for FEMA reimbursement?” and  “How can I recoup costs related to providing medical care and medical evacuation for patients my hospital treats during a disaster?” Administrators, board members and hospital financial staff are all invited to join the webinar.

For full details on how to register and view this free webinar, contact (Peggi Shapiro, peggis@wsha.org).


Nominations Open for 27th Annual Joe Hopkins Memorial Award

The Joe Hopkins Memorial Award was created in 1987 to acknowledge an individual who displays the spirit of Joe Hopkins’ vision and dedication to Washington’s hospitals, with a special focus on his interest in rural health. As in the past, the award will be presented at the Washington State Hospital Association 2014 Annual Meeting, October 15-16, 2014. Read more. (Jeff Mero, jeffm@awphd.org)


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