70.41.420  <<  70.41.425 >>   70.41.430

Nurse staffingDepartment investigations. (Expires June 1, 2023.)

*** CHANGE IN 2023 *** (SEE 5236-S2.SL) ***
(1)(a) The department shall investigate a complaint submitted under this section for violation of RCW 70.41.420 following receipt of a complaint with documented evidence of failure to:
(i) Form or establish a staffing committee;
(ii) Conduct a semiannual review of a nurse staffing plan;
(iii) Submit a nurse staffing plan on an annual basis and any updates; or
(iv)(A) Follow the nursing personnel assignments in a patient care unit in violation of RCW 70.41.420(7)(a) or shift-to-shift adjustments in staffing levels in violation of RCW 70.41.420(7)(b).
(B) The department may only investigate a complaint under this subsection (1)(a)(iv) after making an assessment that the submitted evidence indicates a continuing pattern of unresolved violations of RCW 70.41.420(7) (a) or (b), that were submitted to the nurse staffing committee excluding complaints determined by the nurse staffing committee to be resolved or dismissed. The submitted evidence must include the aggregate data contained in the complaints submitted to the hospital's nurse staffing committee that indicate a continuing pattern of unresolved violations for a minimum sixty-day continuous period leading up to receipt of the complaint by the department.
(C) The department may not investigate a complaint under this subsection (1)(a)(iv) in the event of unforeseeable emergency circumstances or if the hospital, after consultation with the nurse staffing committee, documents it has made reasonable efforts to obtain staffing to meet required assignments but has been unable to do so.
(b) After an investigation conducted under (a) of this subsection, if the department determines that there has been a violation, the department shall require the hospital to submit a corrective plan of action within forty-five days of the presentation of findings from the department to the hospital.
(2) In the event that a hospital fails to submit or submits but fails to follow such a corrective plan of action in response to a violation or violations found by the department based on a complaint filed pursuant to subsection (1) of this section, the department may impose, for all violations asserted against a hospital at any time, a civil penalty of one hundred dollars per day until the hospital submits or begins to follow a corrective plan of action or takes other action agreed to by the department.
(3) The department shall maintain for public inspection records of any civil penalties, administrative actions, or license suspensions or revocations imposed on hospitals under this section.
(4) For purposes of this section, "unforeseeable emergency circumstance" means:
(a) Any unforeseen national, state, or municipal emergency;
(b) When a hospital disaster plan is activated;
(c) Any unforeseen disaster or other catastrophic event that substantially affects or increases the need for health care services; or
(d) When a hospital is diverting patients to another hospital or hospitals for treatment or the hospital is receiving patients who are from another hospital or hospitals.
(5) Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the ability to otherwise submit a complaint to the department for failure to follow RCW 70.41.420.
(6) The department shall submit a report to the legislature on December 31, 2020. This report shall include the number of complaints submitted to the department under this section, the disposition of these complaints, the number of investigations conducted, the associated costs for complaint investigations, and recommendations for any needed statutory changes. The department shall also project, based on experience, the impact, if any, on hospital licensing fees over the next four years. Prior to the submission of the report, the secretary shall convene a stakeholder group consisting of the Washington state hospital association, the Washington state nurses association, service employees international union healthcare 1199NW, and united food and commercial workers 21. The stakeholder group shall review the report prior to its submission to review findings and jointly develop any legislative recommendations to be included in the report.
(7) No fees shall be increased to implement chapter 249, Laws of 2017 prior to July 1, 2021.


Findings2017 c 249: "The legislature finds that:
(1) Research demonstrates that registered nurses play a critical role in improving patient safety and quality of care;
(2) Appropriate staffing of hospital personnel including registered nurses available for patient care assists in reducing errors, complications, and adverse patient care events and can improve staff safety and satisfaction and reduce incidences of workplace injuries;
(3) Health care professional, technical, and support staff comprise vital components of the patient care team, bringing their particular skills and services to ensuring quality patient care;
(4) Assuring sufficient staffing of hospital personnel, including registered nurses, is an urgent public policy priority in order to protect patients and support greater retention of registered nurses and safer working conditions; and
(5) Steps should be taken to promote evidence-based nurse staffing and increase transparency of health care data and decision making based on the data." [ 2017 c 249 § 1.]
Expiration date2017 c 249: "This act expires June 1, 2023." [ 2017 c 249 § 4.]
Short title2017 c 249: "This act may be known and cited as the Washington state patient safety act." [ 2017 c 249 § 5.]
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