Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Sept. 22, 2021

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Staff shortage at St. John prompts nurse union letter, hospital says high volume of patients causing strain


LONGVIEW — Current staffing levels at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center are “woefully insufficient” and creating unsafe work conditions, a letter from the Washington State Nurses Association to the hospital alleges. The hospital said “unprecedented patient volumes” are straining resources throughout the region.

“Our nurses at PeaceHealth St. John are tired and are quickly burning out,” the letter said, as staffing levels are causing nurses to miss meal and rest breaks and take on high patient loads.

Hospital spokeswoman Debra Carnes said the number of people “seeking and needing care is extraordinary” at hospitals throughout the area, taxing resources.

“Patient safety is always our top priority, and we remain committed to providing high-quality care to our community,” she said. “Currently, we are experiencing unprecedented patient volumes at PeaceHealth St. John along with hospitals up and down the I-5 corridor.”

The letter asked PeaceHealth St. John to “do everything in its power to ensure that staffing levels are safe for both nurses and your patient population,” as per the contract between the union and hospital.

WSNA Director of Marketing and Communications Ruth Schubert said that WSNA is “deeply concerned about severe staffing issues at St. John’s Medical Center, and we are pursuing potential solutions with the employer through labor-management channels in accordance with our collective bargaining agreement.”

“Our nurses are charged with caring for the most vulnerable in the community,” the letter said. “Staffing that isn’t safe and a dangerous work environment that puts vulnerable patients at risk should never be tolerated. We are hopeful that you will do the right thing and fully rectify the situation.”