The last straw has been reached for Kitsap County residents and hospital workers, who are calling for big changes in the leadership of St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale.
The union UFCW 3000, which represents the workers at St. Michael, has created a petition calling for the resignation of president Chad Melton and chief nursing officer Jeanell Rasmussen. The petition says they have lost confidence in leadership based on recent and ongoing issues.
The hospital has been under fire for months concerning major backups in its emergency room that have caused some patients to wait for hours before receiving treatment.
The backups have also resulted in long wait times for ambulance dropoffs. Central Kitsap fire chief Jay Christian said the extended ER wait times in June began to reach an excess of anywhere from 30 minutes to as long as six hours.
“When our hospital is so backed up that we’re not able to transfer the patient, it’s bad for the patients,” he said. “It’s bad for the providers. It’s bad for the staff in the hospital, but it also limits our ability to provide emergency services back out in the community.”
The ER issues, driven by a continued struggle with staffing shortages, was just one area of concern brought forward at the Central Kitsap Community Meeting at Ridgetop Middle School Nov. 2.
Melton and other hospital leadership addressed a restless crowd that included several members of former and current hospital staff.
Melton said that he cares about the problems. “I want nothing better than our hospital to grow and be the best that it can be. It’s not about politics. It’s not about anything else.”
According to data provided by St. Michael in the past 12 months, 72% of patients who “presented to our ED on their own” were provided a treatment room 27 minutes after arrival. It also reported that emergent patients delivered by EMS waited just an average of six minutes.
Christian disagreed with the data. He said he fears a “normalization of deviance” that would lead the department to consider even one-hour waits a win. “Since July, there has not been improvement,” he said. “Don’t be misled that the average at six minutes is a rosy picture.”
The overall culture and how employees are treated also came into question. Retiree Philip Porter said the question was not just about hiring new people but retaining current staff.
“I know it’s hard to hire employees.,” he said. “All hospitals are having this problem, but a working environment is really important. I don’t doubt that these people are giving good care when they’re able to give it, but how do you hang on to employees like that?”
The ordeal brought ER technician Kim Von Ruden to tears when she said the hospital would not be ready for mass casualties. She asked leadership how five nurses and one tech were supposed to prepare for such a tragedy. “I came to this county to work in this county because I’m a mom, but I’ve never seen a hospital completely destroy itself like I’ve seen this hospital,” she said.
The meeting concluded with several attendees accusing St. Michael’s leadership of dancing around the questions. Porter said they gave nothing more than a “boilerplate presentation.”
“There is something very wrong,” he said. “When the largest union in the hospital votes no confidence in these people, there’s a reason for that.”