By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD – The emergency department at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton is closing temporarily as of tonight due to a lack of adequate staffing, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health announced Friday.
Beginning at 7 p.m. this evening, anyone seeking emergency care on the Kitsap Peninsula will be diverted to the emergency rooms at St. Michael Medical Center in Silverdale or St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor.
“Out of an abundance of caution for patient safety and despite our best efforts to recruit and retain staff, the emergency room at St. Michael Medical Center’s Bremerton campus will close temporarily beginning Friday, July 30 at 7 p.m.,” Virginia Mason Franciscan Health said.
The ER will remain closed “until staffing levels improve to a level that supports safe care for patients in need of emergency care,” the health system said.
St. Michael medical staff will be at the Bremerton emergency entrance to direct patients to the Silverdale emergency room for care. In addition, a dedicated critical care ambulance will be stationed at the emergency entrance for patients showing up at the Bremerton location for emergency care, according to the hospital.
The staffing shortfall at St. Michael Medical Center is not an isolated case, according to hospital and nurse groups.
“I know other hospitals in Washington are also facing staffing shortages,” said Washington State Hospital Association spokesperson Beth Zborowski. “Some have had to delay surgeries. Some primary care clinics have also had to temporarily close. Staffing challenges are not limited to Washington state. It’s a national problem.”
Washington State Nurses Association spokesperson Ruth Schubert also indicated personnel shortages are impacting medical facilities.
“Nurse and health care worker staffing issues are emerging throughout the state and reaching a point of crisis at many hospitals,” Schubert said.
“Addressing this issue will require a multi-pronged approach, starting with hospitals doing more to keep the nurses they have through strategies like retention bonuses and meaningful incentive pay to encourage nurses, who have been through so much stress during the COVID-19 crisis, to pick up extra shifts,” Schubert said.
No date is set for the Bremerton ER to reopen but Virginia Mason Franciscan Health said in a statement that, “The situation will be closely monitored and updates will be provided as circumstances change.”