United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 3000, which represents nurses at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (PRMCE), is leafleting outside our Colby and Pacific campuses on Aug. 24, 2022. Leafleting is not a strike. It is a way for unions to inform and develop public support for their position. We respect the rights of our caregivers to be part of a union and to engage in this action and other lawful activities. Caregivers can only participate in leafleting if they are off-duty or on a break.
PRMCE, like other hospitals in the region, is seeing a lot of patients come to our Emergency Department for a variety of issues. At the same time, we are experiencing the staffing challenges facing many hospitals in the region and around the country.
These challenges are due to the pandemic, exhausted staff, lack of a national talent pipeline, and about 100 patients at Providence Everett who are medically stable but do not have a safe place in the community to be discharged.
In a late 2021 survey, hospitals in Washington state had a shortage of 6,100 nurses alone. Hospitals and health systems are also facing shortages of other critical staff including respiratory therapists, lab techs, nurse assistants, dietary and environmental service workers. This situation has not improved over the last six months.
Over the past year, PRMCE has been hiring and filling open positions as fast as possible, and when necessary, contracting with staffing agencies to help supplement staffing. PRMCE has also offered caregivers incentives to work extra shifts, recognition bonuses, and signing bonuses.
The national shortage of health care personnel, combined with inflation and global supply chain disruptions, have driven up the cost of caring for patients significantly.
Hospitals and health systems across Washington state lost nearly $1 billion in the first quarter of 2022, and these losses continued in the 2nd quarter. We expect hospitals will face continued losses through the rest of the year.
Providence is taking action
Providence has implemented a multi-pronged approach to retain our caregivers and improve staffing. These efforts include:
We are investing in all our caregivers in recognition of their dedication, as well as working to make our staffing situation sustainable in a way that it recently has not been. Last year, the Providence system implemented a $220 million workforce investment, including recognition bonuses to all caregivers, recruitment bonuses, and caregiver referral bonuses between $1,000 and $7,500.
Last summer PRMCE agreed to a new contract with our represented nurses, which provides market competitive rates as well as a ratification bonus. We have also provided pandemic appreciation bonuses and extra shift bonuses. In many cases, these have exceeded retention bonuses offered elsewhere.
Providence has been an exception to many in that we kept our caregivers whole throughout the pandemic: we didn’t furlough or lay off caregivers, and in fact, we provided replacement pay for those who were unable to work in the first few months of the pandemic.
We are soliciting input from our nurses and meet routinely to put their feedback into action via our strategic plans, which includes a focus on caregiver wellness and engagement.
We are innovating and reimagining how we deliver care, because current delivery models are not sustainable with the nursing shortage. We are trialing team-based nursing models and virtual strategies. These models improve caregiver experience, keep staff working at the top of scope, increase access, and leverage technology to ease the way of our care teams and enhance patient experience.
Last month, Providence announced a new operating model to better respond to the fast-changing health care landscape. The new model calls for a leaner executive team and a nimbler administrative structure, which will support caregivers and patients by freeing up resources for the frontlines and empowering local decision-making to continue meeting the unique needs of our communities.
Our management team and our represented caregivers all share the same goal of providing the best possible care to our patients. We value our caregivers, who are among the most experienced and compassionate in the state. We believe this is the best place to work and the best place to go for care—when we all stay focused on why we were called to serve in the health care field, together we accomplish great things.
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