Nurses accuse PeaceHealth of retaliation after raising safety concerns

Nurses who worked at hospitals owned or operated by Vancouver, Wash.-based PeaceHealth are accusing the health system of retaliating against them when they raised concerns about patient and worker safety, NBC News reported Feb. 6.

Nurses spoke to the news division about their experiences, including Marian Weber, a travel nurse who was contracted to work at PeaceHealth Ketchikan (Alaska) Medical Center. She told NBC News that she raised concerns about critically ill COVID-19 patients who were placed in a unit with no central monitoring system and spoke up against the hospital's suggestion of keeping a nurse in the room for 12 hours.

She said PeaceHealth terminated her contract in August 2021.

Ms. Weber filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board after her contract was terminated, and a hearing is scheduled for June 7, according to radio station KRBD. She seeks reimbursement for travel expenses, among other things.

In addition to Ms. Weber, Sarah Collins told NBC News that she lost her staff nursing job at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver after raising safety concerns, specifically regarding staffing and nurse-to-patient ratios.

According to the news division, Ms. Collins was put on a three-month leave in September after giving a local news interview. She told NBC News she was terminated for "operating outside her scope of practice" and "failing to follow policy." She also has a complaint pending with the National Labor Relations Board.

Separately, NBC News reported, there is an ongoing lawsuit, filed in April 2020, claiming that PeaceHealth Southwest prevented workers from taking required meal and rest breaks allowed under law and that workers were discouraged from reporting missed breaks.

In a statement shared with Becker's, PeaceHealth declined to comment on personnel issues or pending cases but said it emphasizes ensuring safety of employees and patients.

"We can wholeheartedly reinforce that the voices and opinions of our caregivers matter, and any concern brought forward is thoroughly reviewed," the statement said. "We have hardwired safety into all our processes, including a longstanding 'safe to share' platform that empowers every caregiver — no matter their role — with the ability to confidentially raise opportunities to ensure safer care. This best-practice approach is part of our commitment to continuously improve and vision to ensure 100 percent safe care."

"PeaceHealth medical centers' overall quality and safety outcomes have been maintained in spite of the challenges presented by the pandemic, and our approach continues to ensure top-tier care in the communities we serve," the health system added.

Read the NBC News report here. Read the KRBD report here

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