Seattle hospital to close 2 EDs during strike

Seattle-based Swedish Medical Center will shut down two emergency departments during a three-day strike at its sites in the Seattle area, the medical center announced.

Swedish also is closing a labor and delivery unit during the walkout.

"Swedish has contracted with temporary staffing agencies to bring in qualified, experienced replacement caregivers during the strike, but we are not able to secure enough staff to keep all departments open," the medical center said.

"To ensure safe, high quality care for the patients we serve during this period, the decision was made to consolidate some of our services. Swedish will continue to evaluate our staffing levels to put patient safety first and will keep the media and the public informed of any future changes in operations that will have impact on the public," a news release from the medical center stated.

The labor and delivery unit at the Swedish Ballard campus closed at noon Jan. 25 and is expected to reopen at full capacity at 9 a.m. Jan. 31. Swedish said providers will reach out to current patients whose appointment are affected to reschedule. Labor and delivery units at Swedish Edmonds and First Hill campuses will remain open and are available for Ballard patients who need immediate care.

The Ballard and Redmond emergency departments will close at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 and are expected to reopen at 8 a.m. Jan. 31. Swedish said people with life threatening and urgent medical needs should visit another Swedish emergency department or local/regional emergency center. Emergency departments at Swedish First Hill, Cherry Hill, Issaquah, Mill Creek and Edmonds campuses will remain open.

The strike of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Jan. 28. It could include about 8,000 SEIU-represented Swedish workers, depending on how many join the picket lines.

Nurses planning to walk off the job criticized Swedish for deciding to close the two emergency departments, and questioned how Swedish could ensure the public was fully aware of the decision, The Seattle Times reports.  

In addition to the department closures and contracting with temporary staffing agencies, Swedish has hired tactical security guards with body cameras to prepare for the strike. It also reportedly rescheduled elective surgeries, patient classes and some other procedures for much of this week at some campuses. 

The union and hospital management have been in negotiations since April. SEIU said workers are striking over concerns about issues such as staffing and turnover.



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