Valley Hospital, Spokane Valley, WA

Photo credit to Harvey Brown

Our allies at SEIU local 1199 NW are still in dispute with the owners of Deaconess Hospital, Spokane, WA, and Valley Hospital, Spokane Valley, WA over the quality of patient care.  Community Health Systems Inc., from Franklin, Tennessee, owns both as part of a national chain of hospitals.  They have so far refused to meet the demands of their nurses and medical staff to increase staffing levels to better protect the health of patients. Kevin Graman, retired reporter from the Spokesman Review, wrote a great article on this dispute between labor and Deaconess and Valley Hospital over at 

Meanwhile, Service Employees International Union 1199NW, the union that represents nurses at Valley Hospital and technical and service employees at both Valley and Deaconess Hospitals, presses its efforts to convince the state Legislature to follow California’s lead and impose mandatory nurse-patient ratios in Washington hospitals.

Labor Dispute at Deaconess Hospital and Valley Hospital

“It’s about good quality patient care,” said Mary Robinson, a service technician at Deaconess Hospital and a member of the SEIU bargaining team. “It’s about having enough staff to do our job correctly.”

The union said the Tennessee-based company is cutting back on staff at its Spokane hospitals for the sake of larger profits. The SEIU local said administration has not responded to requests for statistical information that would back up workers’ case for more staffing at the Deaconess Medical Center, Spokane, Wa., and Valley Hospital in Spokane Valley, Wa.

Patient Falls Resulting in Injuries and Uncleanliness

It is not complicated.  Without enough staff it is harder to take care of patients and keep them safe.   The nurses are doing the best they care, and many of them attribute the increase in patient falls to the inadequate numbers of staff. Teri Nicholson, an outpatient nurse at Valley Hospital commented that there was an

. . . increase in patient falls following administration-ordered staffing changes at Valley Hospital in 2012. Several studies have associated patient falls with nurse-patient staffing ratios.

In August 2012, the medical-surgical department celebrated going 13 months without a patient fall, Nicholson said. Later that month, the administration changed the patient-nurse ratio from four or five patients per nurse to six per nurse, she said. By October, the department experienced 13 falls, including two that resulted in severe injury to patients.

Patient falls resulting in injury or death must be reported quarterly to the state Department of Health. State records confirm that there were two such falls at Valley Hospital in the third quarter of 2012.  There are similar problems at the Deaconess Hospital.

That is not all.  I heard from a friend of mine involved in the dispute that medial staff found bone fragments on a saw that had not been properly cleaned since the last surgery.  That as not specifically mentioned in the article, but it does go on to say . . .

For example, housekeepers at Deaconess Hospital are being sent home early every day, she said. So housekeepers have to ask, “OK, what don’t we clean today?” Robinson said her department, which is in charge of sterilizing surgical instruments, often gets backed up and workers face excessive overtime.

At Deaconess Hospital, “Sometimes we have had to cancel or postpone surgery because we didn’t have an instrument pan ready,” Robinson said.

It just comes down to being understaffed and the hospital putting profit ahead of patient care.  However, you do have two good alternatives.  There are two non-profit hospitals in town that provide excellent care.  Both Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital are owned by the Washington-based Providence Health and Services, a non-profit Catholic organization.

Kevin Graman goes on to report.

SEIU spokeswoman Nicholson said the union has proposed nurse-patient ratios similar to those in California, which became the first state to mandate ratios 14 years ago.

However, the union said that Spokane Deaconess Hospitals and Spokane Valley hospitals routinely ignore the direction of their nurse staffing committees, which are created by state law to set appropriate staffing levels.

This may turn into a long term battle, and if it does we will keep you posted. 

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