The emergency department at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton is closing temporarily starting tonight due to a lack of staffing, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health announced Friday.
Beginning at 7 p.m., anyone seeking emergency care on the Kitsap Peninsula will be diverted to the emergency rooms at St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale or St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor.
“Out of an abundance of caution for patient safety and despite our best efforts to recruit and retain staff,” the emergency room at St. Michael will close temporarily,” Virginia Mason Franciscan Health says in a news release.
The ER will remain closed “until staffing levels improve to a level that supports safe care for patients in need of emergency care,” the health system says.
St. Michael staff will be at the Bremerton emergency entrance to direct patients to the Silverdale emergency room for care. A critical care ambulance will be stationed at the emergency entrance for patients who emergency care, according to the hospital.
The staffing shortfall is not an isolated case, according to hospital and nurse groups.
“I know other hospitals in Washington are also facing staffing shortages,” state Hospital Association representative Beth Zborowski said. “Some have had to delay surgeries. Some primary care clinics have also had to temporarily close. Staffing challenges are not limited to Washington state. It’s a national problem.”
State Nurses Association representative Ruth Schubert agreed.
“Nurse and health care worker staffing issues are emerging throughout the state and reaching a point of crisis at many hospitals,” Schubert said.“Addressing this issue will require a multi-pronged approach, starting with hospitals doing more to keep the nurses they have through strategies like retention bonuses and meaningful incentive pay to encourage nurses, who have been through so much stress during the COVID-19 crisis, to pick up extra shifts.”
No date is set for the Bremerton ER to reopen but Virginia Mason Franciscan Health says in a statement that, “The situation will be closely monitored and updates will be provided as circumstances change.”