Lawmakers introduce bipartisan healthcare safe staffing bills

SB 5751, HB 1868 would protect healthcare workers, improve care for patients, and begin to address the staffing crisis


SEATTLE (Jan. 11, 2022) — Members of the WA Safe + Healthy coalition on Monday applauded legislative champions led by Sen. June Robinson (D-Everett) and Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane) for introducing bipartisan legislation to create new safe staffing standards for hospitals in Washington state, which will help protect healthcare workers and ensure patients get the care they deserve.

Last month UFCW 21, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and the Washington State Nurses Association – which collectively represent more than 71,000 healthcare workers in the state of Washington – launched the WA Safe + Healthy campaign calling on lawmakers in Olympia to pass legislation to deal with the unprecedented burnout and unsafe work conditions healthcare workers are facing. The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest union organization in the state, also identified the issue as a priority in its 2022 Workers’ Recovery Agenda.

In a December poll of about 1,200 Washington healthcare workers, 84 percent of healthcare workers said they’re burned out, and half (49 percent) said they’re likely to quit health care in the next few years. Among those likely to quit, 71 percent said short-staffing was among their primary reasons. The proposed legislation will begin to finally address the hospital staffing crisis by making healthcare workers’ jobs safer and more manageable.

“Throughout the pandemic, healthcare workers have worked to the bone and put their own lives at risk, despite being understaffed, burned out, and at their breaking points,” said Sen. June Robinson (D – Everett), sponsor of SB 5751. “We need to take care of them like they’ve taken care of us, by protecting them from the stress of unmanageable patient loads. The only way to address the staffing crisis – and ensure patients get timely, quality care – is to mitigate the burnout our healthcare workers are facing every day. Washington should be a place healthcare workers want to come and have long, successful careers.”

“Washington nurses and healthcare workers repeatedly raised the issue of staffing recruitment and retention, unmanageable workloads, and unsafe patient care conditions long before the pandemic,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane), sponsor of HB 1868. “Now we are in a crisis with hospital staffing levels falling off a cliff as a record number of workers burnout. Hospitals executives have spent millions of dollars in bonuses for themselves during the pandemic alone. Instead, we need our resources focused on having enough nurses and healthcare workers and for them to be well-trained, well-respected, and well-compensated. The Legislature needs to pass safe staffing standards and other safety reforms healthcare workers have asked for, so they can continue to do their jobs safely and give patients like my family and yours the care they deserve.”

“Taking care of our frontline healthcare workers is and has been a priority of mine, both before the pandemic and during the last two years,” said Rep. Mike Volz (R-Spokane), cosponsor of HB 1868. “The statewide staffing shortage has reached a point where we need to find a legislative solution. This is a conversation we need to be having and I look forward to working with my colleagues, Rep. Riccelli, and others on this.”

SB 5751/HB 1868 would finally begin to address the hospital staffing crisis by:

Creating safe staffing standards that protect any one healthcare worker from dangerously high patient loads and creatine adequate enforcement mechanisms to ensure hospitals follow safety standards;

Closing loopholes and enforcing existing break and overtime laws to ensure hospitals are complying with already-passed legislation to ensure healthcare workers get legally-required meal and rest break time, as well as ending the current abuse of mandatory overtime;

Additionally, the WA Safe + Healthy coalition will support efforts to invest in workforce development to increase the number of new healthcare workers entering the field, but healthcare workers have been clear that increasing the pipeline of new healthcare workers will only be successful alongside safe staffing standards that protect them from massive burnout once they begin working.

The WA Safe + Healthy campaign is a coalition of healthcare workers calling on Washington legislators to pass safe staffing standards for the health and safety of both workers and patients. Collectively, the Washington State Nurses Association, UFCW 21 and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW represent more than 71,000 healthcare workers in the state of Washington. Learn more at

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