Coming to a hospital near you? A solution for patient access, caregivers


A bipartisan bill that would allow the state to join 37 others in the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact cleared the state Senate in time to get pushed to the House for hopeful consideration. It would give Washington state hospitals and caregivers a tool to help patients in need.

My fingers are crossed for Senate Bill 5499, which was sponsored by a bipartisan bunch looking for a solution to one of our most pressing workforce challenges. A vote of 40 "yeas" and only eight "nays" (and one excused) gives me realistic hope for the legislation.

Our health system is in need of a lot of urgent care. Problems include workforce issues, an aging population, lack of educated or price-concerned consumers, missing price transparency, Medicaid rolls filled with people in need and people not in need, bad state reimbursement rates for hospitals, unnecessary licensing regulations and government interference with competition needed to help with cost containment. And then there are pandemics that put caregivers in stressful situations, motivate people to retire or change jobs, create the need for more manned hospital beds, and bring cities and states disease hotspots in need of immediate staff fluctuation. 

COVID-19 also stressed the importance of using tools available to us in modern times to help provide patient-centered care. Those include increased telemedicine options, various licensure easements and ridding the state of its Certificate of Need law, which lawmakers should have in their sights.

Being able to hire qualified nurses licensed in other states to get to work immediately — while retaining safety and the state’s disciplinary authority, as SB 5499 emphasizes — should be a welcome allowance. I’m glad to see it was in the Senate.

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