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Silverdale hospital short on staff calls 911 for help after being overwhelmed with patients

A nurse in the ER department in the St. Michael Medical Center made the 911 call because her staff was “drowning,” and needed help fast.

SILVERDALE, Wash. — Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue was surprised to get a call from 911 dispatch on Saturday, sending them to St. Michael Medical Center, because the call wasn’t for a fire.

“The charged nurse from inside the emergency room called 911,” said Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Jay Christian. “The charging nurse said twice, 'we’re drowning,' conveying that they only had five nurses on duty and 45 patients in their waiting room, and she was asking for help from local firefighters to come work inside of the ER to help relieve some of that pressure.”

Fire crews that were dispatched spent an hour and a half supporting St. Michael’s ER staff by monitoring vital signs and cleaning beds.

Staffing issues at the hospital are well known to Poulsbo Fire Chief James Gillard, and the ripple effect it’s had on first responders.

“We started noticing in July our wait times, from the time we took a patient to the emergency department to the time we were able to transfer care was starting to get extended,” Gillard said. “The concern for that was our patients not being able to get the care they needed and also the EMS and emergency response units not being able to return to service.”

Chief Gillard says the wait times would have some crews out of service for more than six hours.

But Gillard says since St. Michael is the only hospital on the peninsula, there are few options to choose from.

“In Kitsap Peninsula, we only have the one hospital, and that’s St. Michaels, so that’s one area where it’s impactful to us when wait times are longer because we don’t have another solution that’s close,” he explained.

Chief Gillard wants to reassure Kitsap County that despite the wait times, the county’s 911 and EMS systems are still intact, and promises that if you call 911, the fire department will make sure you get the help you need. But he hopes something will change to keep this from happening again.

“We want to find solutions to make sure this doesn’t happen again, but we are always here to help,” he said.

St. Michael Medical Center sent KING 5 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 healthcare needs of the community."


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