Assaults on staff at DSHS children’s hospital must end

This Workers Memorial Day, WFSE urges DSHS management to listen to workers’ solutions to safety crisis


The following is from AFSCME Council 28/WFSE:

(April 19, 2024) — Every year, the Department of Social and Health Services leadership attends the Washington Federation of State Employees Local 793’s Workers Memorial Day event, which honors workers killed and injured on the job.  This year, we’re asking them to do more than a photo op. We want them to take action that will keep our members safe on the job.

WFSE and SEIU Healthcare 1199NW members at the Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC) run the only state-operated and funded psychiatric hospital for children and youth ages 5-17.

Assaults have been rising dramatically due to management inaction. Twenty-three staff were injured on the job between Dec. 9, 2023, and Jan. 31, 2024. That’s about one injury every two days. Of those 23 injuries, 16 of them took place on San Juan cottage. That is evidence of a serious safety issue.

To serve youth and families who are in need, we need to be safe on the job. Management has to listen.

WFSE members have proposed several different solutions to address these safety concerns in various avenues with management — in Safety Committee meetings, Union Management Communication Committee meetings, and through a grievance filed for a member who was assaulted.

But the safety crisis continues. Our members are now taking direct action to protect themselves, their coworkers and the important work of the CSTC.

Members’ main demands are for management to:

  • “Remove Nurses from the Census,” meaning nurses should not be counted when determining the staff-to-patient ratio as they need to perform their normal work and give medication.
  • “Six floor staff minimum on Orcas and San Juan,” where, at times, just one staff member can be left with up to eight patients by themselves. It’s totally unsafe and a big part of why there have been so many assaults.

These are simple asks, and we are asking for management to hear us.

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