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The following message was sent by Mayor Wheeler to St. Michael Medical Center administration yesterday in response to a letter from UFCW 21 hospital employees regarding health and safety protocols at St. Michael (formerly Harrison hospital).
To St. Michael Medical Center,
First, I want to recognize St. Michael Medical Center’s collaboration with state and local health officials to respond to a large COVID-19 outbreak at the Bremerton hospital in mid-August. By working with state and local health officials and agencies, St. Michael responded to the crisis, provided updates to the public and contained the outbreak. Through its response, St. Michael maintained community trust in our local hospital and vital healthcare services.
Today, I’m writing to bring your attention to a troubling letter my office received from UFCW 21 union employees of St. Michael. Bremerton hospital staff express their concerns about current conditions at the hospital and a change in response by St. Michael to health and safety protocols after containing this summer’s COVID-19 outbreak. In the letter, they assert that nurses and other healthcare workers have seen a decline in available PPE and a lack of rapid COVID-19 testing for frontline staff, among other issues, after the initial actions St. Michael had taken to combat the spread of the virus. The employee letter raises troubling questions about the health and safety measures currently in place to protect the public.
I’m not sure of the validity of the claims as St. Michael has not publicly addressed the letter by employees. However, as you know, protective equipment and rapid COVID-19 tests for hospital staff remain crucial tools for limiting the spread of COVID-19 among employees, patients and visitors and are outlined in the state’s joint hazard alert for healthcare employers and a recent letter by Kitsap Public Health on access to testing for healthcare workers and others. Without sufficient tools in place at St. Michael, I am concerned about the potential for future outbreaks and the impacts on our citizens.
Our population depends on safe and accessible healthcare. It’s imperative that precautions are taken at every level of St. Michael to reduce opportunities for transmission of the coronavirus among workers and those seeking treatment and care. Residents must be able to trust that health and safety protocols are in place at the Bremerton hospital, and that administrators and employees as well as patients and visitors are precisely following them.
In response to the employee letter, I urge St. Michael’s administration to publicly communicate about its COVID-19 health and safety practices to create transparency with the community. The Bremerton City Council is open to having St. Michael’s administration attend an upcoming meeting to brief members of the Council and the public about the hospital’s current health protocols and answer questions. I invite you to contact the City Council office at 360-473-5280 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information on setting up a briefing at a future meeting.
St. Michael Medical Center is an important partner in maintaining the community’s trust. Communicating to the public about the steps St. Michael is taking to reduce outbreaks and what the hospital is doing to make access and care as safe as possible would help provide assurances to the citizens of Bremerton.