Short-staffed hospital in Silverdale calls on firefighters to help treat patients

On Saturday, Oct. 8, the emergency room staff at St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale had to call in firefighters to help treat patients. The fire chief, Jason Christian, said a charge nurse called around 10:30 p.m. and said her staff was drowning and they needed help.

“She expressed that this was a bit of an unprecedented request, and she said the conditions in the emergency room were horrible,” Christian said. The nurse called the backline to a 911 dispatcher, and that dispatcher called the battalion chief for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue. The battalion chief dispatched two firefighter EMTs to help.

“She was describing to the dispatcher that they only had five nurses on duty and they had over 45 patients just in the waiting room,” Christian said. The firefighters helped in the ER for about an hour and a half.

“They checked patients’ vital signs, up to 30 patients, they cleaned rooms, they moved beds, they did whatever they could do to support the ER staff to get them out of that crisis mode,” Christian said. He said that firefighters will always respond to calls for help but admitted that this was not sustainable.

“It did impact service in that, that unit was taken out of their primary area,” he said. “It lowered the reliability to make them available for a 911 call in the community.”

KIRO 7 did reach out to St. Michael Medical Center about this incident, and they provided a statement that reads, “At St. Michael Medical Center, similar to other hospitals in the state, we’ve been experiencing high patient volumes and staffing shortages. We continue to prioritize patients with the most urgent medical conditions, even when we are experiencing capacity challenges. We work to manage appropriate staffing levels and to balance capacity system-wide as effectively as we can. We recognize this is a frustrating time for our patients and staff, and we appreciate the support of our partners as we work to meet the health care needs of the community.”

The Washington State Nurses Association does not represent the nurses at St. Michael but told KIRO 7 they’re not surprised something like this happened.

“This is an extreme example of things that are happening across our state and across our nation right now,” Jayson Dick, from the nurses association, said. He said ideally the ratio for nurses to patients in an ER should be one to four.

“The nurses there, they’re right there in the thick of it. They’re the ones looking the patients in the eyes. They’re looking at those patients coming to them seeking help, and there’s just not enough of them to provide the level of care that they need,” Dick said.