WASHINGTON - The Washington State Hospital Association and the Washington State Nurses Association have very conflicting views about house bill 1868.
First introduced in January, this labor and workspace standards bill is causing some tension between healthcare workers.
House Bill 1868 was passed in the Washington House on February 13, now heading to the Senate for discussion.
The bill is designed to set staffing standards when it comes to things like overtime and enforced meal and rest breaks.
While that may seem straightforward, both the Hospital Association and the Nurses Association have been arguing about how this bill will help the hospital staff.
"Although, I do believe the intentions are good to look at how we can make changes in staffing," said Darcy Jaffe, senior vice president for The Washington State Hospital Association. "There's a lot of concerns about how the nursing shortage, the pandemic, and the healthcare system, and a society that has been permanently changed. We're just not sure a year from now, what healthcare will look like, what our work will look like."
The Washington State Nurses Association has been advocating for this bill for a while now and is surprised not everyone is on board.
"We're disappointed that the hospitals have opposed this so strongly because I think it will help them in providing the kind of care that they need to be providing and also in retaining nurses and healthcare workers," said David Keepnews, executive director at The Washington State Nurses Association. "That's the biggest problem right now in terms of the so-called shortage is really a shortage of nurses and other healthcare workers who are willing and able to work under these extremely increasingly difficult conditions."
Both sides bring up staffing and the problems that come with that, but what they don't agree on is, the why.
"With the exception of just a few years, maybe just in the late '80s... we've struggled with staffing for like 100 years, so this isn't brand new and the reality is that yeah some nurses probably would come back to the hospital if you pay them more but most won't," said Jaffe. "They have other work they are doing, there's other reasons that people don't work right now."
The Nurses Association disagrees.
"Our members, the nurses in this state recall all nurses that we've heard from and that are our coalition partners have heard from are really hurting right now," said Keepnews. "In terms of what they are able to do and how far they can be stretched in providing for safe and quality care for patients and this is a solution that has become extremely popular, it's really what our members demanding."
The Hospital Association says the main reason they don't support the bill is that the staffing crisis and mandated ratios can't be approached by a one size fits all solution.
"Staffing is not first and second grade math, it's like AP calculus and it's like graduate level physics," said Jaffe. "It's really hard and it's really complicated."
Right now, House Bill 1868 is being introduced into the Senate. If the bill is passed during this session, hospitals will have 2 years to implement the mandates across the state.