In the interest of transparency and the clarification of articles in the Whidbey News-Times and the South Whidbey Record based on a complaint by the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) against Whidbey General Hospital (WGH), I write this letter.
First, it is fair to say WGH and the WSNA union have been in long-standing negotiations to come to resolution on a new labor contract that expired March 31, 2015. Negotiations have been long and arduous, and a mediator has been brought in to help resolve issues. (I understand that by state law, the terms of the current contract automatically extend through March 31, 2016.)
In the midst of these labor contract negotiations, on May 26, the WSNA filed a complaint with the Department of Health against WGH stating that the hospital was not conducting Nursing Staffing Committee meetings in accordance with the law. The DOH investigated, interviewed both administration and staff, and reviewed policies and procedures.
The purpose of the state-mandated Nursing Staffing Committee is to develop evidence-based staffing plans for safe patient care and provide a forum for nurses to discuss staffing concerns at meetings conducted semiannually.
The review indicates that meetings were held annually, and not semiannually, in 2012, 2013 and 2014. It does appear there were lapses in the process and follow-through of the intent of these committee meetings and related documentation. This lapse was confirmed by the DOH in their investigation on June 1.
Upon receipt of the findings from the DOH, WGH immediately developed and submitted a corrective action program to address the issues presented in their citation.
Now the reality of all this fanfare.
Whidbey General has a history of providing exceptional nursing care. The hospital has been recognized nationally for their Cancer Care Program. Nurses have been obtaining their advanced practice certifications in many specialties, which continues to improve the quality of care. As compared with other hospitals in the area, we have fewer infections, fewer complications from bed rest and fewer wound infections. When compared with larger hospitals, we are on parity with all the markers, and nearly 60 percent of respondents surveyed rank WGH nine out of 10 on care provided.
WGH provides extraordinary nursing care, and therefore, it is always humbling when a glitch is found on any review as it was in this case. WGH nursing care has never been compromised. The corrective action plan will certainly be implemented to assure semiannual Nursing Staffing Committee meetings will be held, properly documented and facilitate meaningful input from the nursing staff.
We have much on our plate at WGH as we seek to move forward in our preparation for the new hospital wing and a new chapter for WGH. Resolving a new nursing labor contract is an important step in this regard also, and we are hopeful that mediation will lead to a new contract soon.
- Open letter written by Dr. Grethe Cammermeyer, RN, Ph.D., Hospital Commissioner District 1.