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Hospital short-staffing is harming Washington patients

DOH data confirm healthcare workers’ reports of patient harm or death due to short-staffing. Tell senators to pass SB 5236 now!


SEATTLE (Feb. 23, 2023) — The statewide hospital staffing crisis, which healthcare workers have called on legislators to address with safe staffing standards (SB 5236), has also put patient safety at risk.

In polling released last week, conducted among 1,200 healthcare worker members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, UFCW 3000, and the Washington State Nurses Association, 48 percent of healthcare workers report that in the past year their hospital experienced a sentinel event or adverse health event, meaning a patient safety event that could have been avoided and caused serious harm or death, that they believe was due to short-staffing.

Now, newly acquired data on preventable adverse patient safety events collected by the Washington Department of Health corroborate the reported experiences of healthcare workers. According to the data, through Q3 2022 preventable serious adverse events reported to DOH were on pace to increase by 61.6 percent from 2019 through 2022. Serious patient pressure ulcers acquired after admission were on pace to increase by 98.1 percent, while patient falls resulting in death or serious injury were on pace to increase by 42.9 percent.

It’s important to note that while 48 percent of healthcare workers report patient harm or death within their hospitals in the last year that they believe was due to short-staffing, many of these events may not be captured in the data hospitals are reporting to DOH. However, the increase in the DOH data supports what healthcare workers say is happening within hospitals.

TAKE A STAND! — SB 5236 needs to pass the Senate Ways & Means Committee by this Friday, Feb. 24 to survive the fiscal cutoff deadline. Please send a message to your state senator today urging them to pass SB 5236 now!

Safe staffing standards, like those proposed in SB 5236, are proven by decades of data to improve safety for patients. Exhaustive real-world results show higher nurse staffing levels are directly associated with lower patient mortality and failure to rescue rates, fewer adverse patient events, and shorter lengths of stay.

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 3000 and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW represent more than 75,000 healthcare workers in the state of Washington. Learn more at

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