Damaged mattresses not being replaced quickly enough, says Washington hospital union

A union representing nurses at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., is calling on the hospital to quickly remove and replace damaged mattresses, The News Tribune reported Nov. 10.

The ask specifically refers to mattresses with surface micro-tears in St. Joseph's labor and delivery department.

Representatives with the Washington State Nurses Association said in a news release that "blood and other bodily fluids" have leaked from the micro-tears — a situation that poses patient safety issues, according to The News Tribune. The union also filed a complaint over the issue with the Washington State Department of Health.

Jennifer Schomburg, president of St. Joseph Medical Center, told The News Tribune the hospital "takes the highest responsibility to ensure the safety and quality of our equipment for our patients. Any mattresses that are compromised are immediately taken out of commission and not used for patient care."

She added, "As a standard process, we regularly inspect all beds after every use when they are cleaned and disinfected, and immediately remove any mattresses from use if they do not meet safety standards."

At the same time, the union contends the damaged mattresses remain an issue and have not been addressed quickly enough.

Specifically, the union contends that "some beds were replaced, and others were patched, which didn't stop the seepage of bodily fluids," The News Tribune reported.

"This is a patient safety issue that we have been raising the alarm on for two months," Jayson Dick, BSN, RN, WSNA director of labor strategies, said in the Nov. 7 union release, according to the newspaper. "In order to keep patients and staff safe, any compromised mattresses need to be replaced."

The hospital attributed some of the issue to supply chain disruptions.

St. Joseph told The News Tribune, "An approved protocol to patch mattresses was put into place only for situations when it is safe and appropriate to do so, based on the level of damage. Any mattresses that are damaged and therefore unable to be safely patched are immediately removed from the floor."

The hospital added, "Due to supply chain disruptions affecting the entire region and industry, we are not able to order replacement beds as quickly as usual. Patching is an interim measure until replacement beds can be delivered.

"Replacement beds have been ordered and are arriving as they are available."

Frank Ameduri, public information officer with the state department of health, acknowledged a report related to the mattresses to The News Tribune.

The department "has no specific rules related to mattresses in healthcare settings," he told the newspaper, "however we do have requirements for maintaining medical equipment and following appropriate infection controls practices. Someone could file a report based on general health concerns."

St. Joseph is part of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, which has more than 18,000 team members and staff.

To read the full report, click here.

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