Providence hospital leaders urged to act after patient dies in ER

Leadership of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett (Wash.) is facing pushback from local city and county officials, who expressed "disappointment" after a patient died in the hospital's emergency department, The Daily Herald reported Nov. 11.

Everett City and Snohomish County council members penned a letter to hospital leadership highlighting their concerns about the hospital's handling of staffing problems. Council members also shared potential efforts to help address the issue.

"We, the undersigned, are collectively writing to express our disappointment and share our concerns with Providence leadership's handling of the staffing crisis amongst nurses. This staffing crisis is a public health issue and it's directly impacting the community we serve," the letter states.

"We respect that the decisions made by leadership are difficult ones and that there are not always simple solutions. With that in mind, we hope to outline some of the specific issues which have been brought forward to elected officials as well as some potential actions which might work toward a resolution."

The letter comes after a patient died in the hospital's emergency department Nov. 3. Snohomish County confirmed the death and the conduction of an autopsy, according to The Daily Herald. As of Nov. 11, a media report with further information about the investigation was not planned.

A hospital statement about the incident, which was shared with Becker's, says Providence has processes and protocols to rapidly assess patients when they come to the emergency department, and to guide their ongoing care and evaluation while there.

The statement says that when "a patient has a medical emergency in the emergency department, regardless of the location within the department, our specialized teams respond and initiate all appropriate resuscitation methods. As one of the busiest emergency departments in the state, it is not unusual for emergencies to be seen, but losses like this are extremely rare and it is especially difficult when life-saving efforts are not successful."

Kristy Carrington, interim chief executive of Providence Swedish North Puget, issued the following statement: "We are deeply saddened by this incident and our deepest sympathies are with the patient's family and loved ones. We are providing on-site counselors for the patient's family, our nurses, caregivers and physicians."

Providence also said the hospital has started reviewing the occurrence and processes in place.

The letter from city and county councils points to issues reported by workers, such as understaffing of nurses; low morale among nurses and support staff; nurses assigned to units in which they are not experienced; and a significant number of nurse resignations.

The councils provided various potential actions the hospital could take, including:       

  • Meeting in good faith with nurses to hear their concerns and ideas about improving patient care.       
  • Advocating for funding or regulations at the state level that might address staffing shortages.       
  • Begin again collecting exit interview data after nurse resignations to help inform future decisions.
  • Provide nurses with incentives like hazard pay or retention bonuses.

On Nov. 18, Providence Regional Medical Center Everett sent a letter to the city and county councils outlining the challenges facing hospitals in Washington state and what the Everett hospital is doing in response.

The letter, in part, states that the hospital has comprehensive plans to address recruitment and retention, while also implementing new care models to best use resources.

"Each of these efforts is being informed by front-line staff, and we have new processes in place to increase transparency and accountability for our leadership teams in being responsive to the ideas of all our caregivers," the hospital said. "Providence Everett is an anchor healthcare institution in Snohomish County, and we all need to work together to find solutions and ensure we can continue our mission to serve everyone in the community, especially the poor and vulnerable."

The letter lists highlights of the hospital's plan, including listening to front-line staff, reimagining care delivery and working with union partners.

Read the county and county councils' full letter here. Read the hospital's full letter here.   

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