Virginia Mason Franciscan Health lays off 400 workers

Apr 6, 2023, 3:17 PM

healthcare workers...

St. Joseph Medical Center (Photo courtesy of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health)

(Photo courtesy of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health)

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (VMFH) laid off approximately 400 workers this week, the hospital system confirmed, as layoffs have stretched beyond the tech sector into other industries.

“I remember several years ago, nurses were protesting. They were saying we have a problem. People are leaving our industry there. This is too stressful. We want lower patient-to-nurse ratios,” said Angela Poe Russell, fill-in host on The Gee and Ursula Show. “It’s leading to some burnout because they are stressed out. And now what’s happening is it costs the hospitals more to have travel nurses. Apparently, the cost of travel nurses for last year went up 120%.”

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The layoffs reportedly have totaled less than 2% of VMFH employees, as the hospital system told The News Tribune it is reducing its workforce “through primarily non-patient-facing roles.”

VMFH contains 10 hospitals in addition to hundreds of clinics and other medical sites in the area.

“There was a George Washington University study that said when you had low registered nurse staffing levels, it led to higher patient mortality,” Poe Russell continued. “And also that staff wellbeing is a big contributor to being able to keep people in the industry. So right now, while I know that these hospitals are struggling on so many levels, being able to figure out how we can make this an attractive job again would really make a difference.”

Ursula Reutin, co-host of The Gee and Ursula Show, cited a recent survey of 1,200 healthcare workers in the state of Washington that found nearly half of them plan on quitting within a few years, with only 43% stating they are not likely to leave the profession.

79% said of respondents said they feel very or somewhat burned out, while nearly half of the healthcare workers reported feeling unsafe at their jobs. Short-staffing, lack of pay, and workplace safety were the top three reasons healthcare workers are considering leaving the profession altogether.

“Meanwhile, it was the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that said we need 275,000 nurses in the next seven years,” Poe Russell said. “Yeah, that’s how many we need. This math isn’t adding up.”

The Bureau projected that employment opportunities for nurses will grow at 9%, faster than all other occupations from 2016 through 2026, while the U.S. Department of Labor announced an $80 million funding opportunity through its Nursing Expansion Grant Program to help reach the lofty goal.

“Many healthcare workers, nurses among them, have worked around the clock throughout the pandemic to care for those in need and save countless lives, often while risking their own health and well-being,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh in a press release. “Today, they face diminished ranks of colleagues to help shoulder these burdens as patients continue to depend on them. The funding opportunity announced will support training and other programs to help advance workforce equity while bringing more nurses into the industry.”

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A pair of bills, Senate Bill 5236 and Senate Bill 5582, in the Washington State Legislature was drafted to address the statewide nursing shortage. Both passed in the Senate and are currently in the House.

“It was a No. 1 profession that children wanted to be. It used to be a doctor, lawyer, firefighter, and police officer. Now it’s an influencer,” said Andrew “Chef” Lanier, the show’s producer. “Tech worker is pretty high on the list too. They’re not attractive professionals to kids in the same way that they used to be. And I can’t blame him when you have eight years of school and potentially come out with a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of debt to start your career.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Virginia Mason Franciscan Health lays off 400 workers