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Good Sam nurses hold vote of no confidence in MultiCare CEO after staffing concerns

Update: There were 377 nurses who voted, and that vote was unanimously a vote of no confidence in MultiCare CEO Bill Robertson, Washington State Nurses Association spokesperson Bobbi Nodell told The News Tribune. That means over half of the 750 nurses eligible to vote did so.

Nodell also said nurses put up two billboards near the Emerald Queen Casino that say in part: “Hey Bill! Safe Nurse Staffing Saves Lives,” and “Support WSNA nurses at MultiCare Good Sam.”

The Washington State Nurses Association put up this billboard along Interstate 5 in Tacoma. Nurses at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup held a vote of no confidence in MultiCare CEO Bill Robertson May 16, 2023 amid staffing concerns. Courtesy of Bobbi Nodell
The Washington State Nurses Association put up this billboard along Interstate 5 in Tacoma. Nurses at Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup held a vote of no confidence in MultiCare CEO Bill Robertson May 16, 2023 amid staffing concerns. Courtesy of Bobbi Nodell

Initial story: Nurses at MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup are holding a vote of no confidence in MultiCare’s CEO amid staffing concerns, the Washington State Nurses Association said in a news release Tuesday.

The vote tally will be out by 9 p.m. Tuesday, WSNA spokesperson Bobbi Nodell told The News Tribune.

“The main issues for the 750 nurses represented by the Washington State Nurses Association are staffing and dedicated break nurses,” the WSNA release said. “Nurses are concerned about handling the increasing patient load and still providing quality patient care.”

Asked if MultiCare CEO Bill Robertson or MultiCare would like to comment about the vote, spokesperson Scott Thompson sent a statement Tuesday that said the hospital system understands “the pressures our nurses are facing” and hears “the concerns they voice over staffing levels and burnout.”

The statement noted that the hospital has more than 300 open registered nurse positions. Thompson said Good Samaritan has 905 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, and that the WSNA represents 736 of them.

“We will continue to be aggressive in our recruiting as we seek to improve the existing workplace environment,” it said.

Nurses picketed outside the hospital last month.

They’ve had 15 bargaining sessions, which is a record for the hospital, according to the WSNA.

“MultiCare believes in paying market-competitive salaries and benefits,” MultiCare’s statement said. “We must also ensure our services remain affordable for patients and that our hospitals remain fiscally sound so that we can continue providing health care services to the community.”

MultiCare started negotiating with the WSNA in February, the statement said, and believes “the best way to come to an agreement that satisfies both parties is at the bargaining table.”

The vote of no-confidence Tuesday comes “after Robertson turned down an invitation for an open town hall and rejected a staffing plan submitted by nurses on May 12,” the WSNA release said.

Instead, MultiCare suggested a plan called “Financial Education for Staffing Committee,” for the CFO to “provide ‘education’ to nurses who sit on the hospital staffing committee,” the release said.

Staffing proposals

The hospital’s staffing committee, which has nurses and nurse managers, unanimously approved a staffing plan in the past few years that the CEO and CFO rejected, according to the Nurses Association.

One of the issues is that Good Samaritan nurses care for one another’s patients in order to take breaks, the Nurses Association said.

“At MultiCare Tacoma General, meanwhile, WSNA nurses bargained for and won nurse-to-patient ratios in 2016, which cap the number of patients a nurse cares for, and they operate with break nurses,” the release said. “MultiCare Tacoma General nurses came to the brink of a strike vote to win ratios and designated break nurses.”

MultiCare’s statement Tuesday said that the hospital system “has proposed adding meal and break assignments to each unit based on the amount of time needed to cover those meals and breaks. We built this proposal using an established model created by the bargaining team RNs, with two minor changes to the first set of effective dates.”

Those changes “would allow time for the new contract (and new rates) to take effect, giving us time to recruit and train more RNs — thus gathering the required staffing levels to support adding meal and break assignments,” the statement said.

The Nurses Association said another issue is that nurses are concerned about how MultiCare will staff a new 160-bed patient tower that’s in the works.

“The hospital’s bargaining team said that policies being implemented across MultiCare, which unlawfully bypass the staffing committee, are coming from corporate leadership,” the WSNA release said. “This has led to a lack of confidence in leadership’s willingness to listen to the nurses who are ultimately responsible for providing patient care in their facilities.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the number of registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who work at the hospital, and with how many of those nurses are represented by the WSNA.