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EVERETT – Two years after the start of the pandemic, frontline healthcare workers are exhausting themselves and have reached a breaking point, say leaders of the unions representing them. They want lawmakers to impose minimum staffing standards in 2022.

“It’s not viable to work like this,” said Maria Goodall, vascular ultrasound technician at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. “It’s something you expect to do from time to time, but it shouldn’t become a daily expectation. ”

Staff shortages create dangerous conditions for patients and workers, they say. There is also a need for better enforcement of existing break laws and more investment in workforce development, they say.

Three unions that collectively represent 71,000 healthcare workers have launched a campaign to pressure the state legislature to act on these issues in the next session. Service Employees International Union Healthcare 1199NW, Washington State Nurses Association, and United Food and Commercial Workers 21 are drafting legislation to address the concerns.

“I know nurses who go 12 hours without going to the bathroom because it’s very busy,” said Jane Hopkins, RN at Harborview Medical Center and executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “Do you want someone to take care of you, knowing full well that they’re a little distracted because they haven’t peed?” “

One of the goals is to develop a standard for the number of patients per nurse. California was the first state to require minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals. Hopkins said such a law was necessary in Washington.

Providence Northwest chief executive Darren Redick said in a statement that Providence has hired as many new caregivers as possible over the past year to fill the vacancies.

“We appreciate and share the concerns of unions about health worker shortages,” Redick said. “Staffing is a big issue that affects us not only locally, but also in hospitals across the country. Providence is committed to ensuring that we have enough staff to continue providing the services our communities need and expect. ”

UFCW 21, which represents healthcare workers in Providence, struck a deal with the hospital in July. Registered nurses received a bonus of $ 1,500 in September and a bonus of $ 2,000 in December, according to the union’s website.

Compass Health, a nonprofit community behavioral health agency, recently increased the salaries of its frontline clinical staff. Posts have benefited from an increase of 5 to 30%.

“Compass Health has proposed to increase the salaries of our clinical staff because we want to attract high performing and dedicated behavioral health professionals,” CEO Tom Sebastian said in a statement. “It is also important that compensation reflects the sophistication and quality of care provided by our team, as well as the value they bring to our community by serving our most vulnerable population.

Katie Hayes: [email protected]; Twitter: @misskatiehayes.

Katie Hayes is a member of the Report for America corps and writes on issues affecting the working class for the Daily Herald.