By Scott Hunter
editor and publisher 

Legislators need to tread less assuredly


Last updated 2/28/2022 at 2:11pm

Good ideas have a way of changing into something else in a committee, and that’s precisely how we tend to govern in America, especially in Washington state in the last two years.

Last year the Legislature passed a law widely condemned by law enforcement agencies who warned of unintended consequences. A proposed fix, still controversial, is currently under debate. See that story on page 1.

This year, the Leg is considering a similarly well-intended but possibly disastrous effort, one that seeks to address a very real problem with a non-solution.

Nobody could be against helping nurses and other health care professionals get the relief we’ve all been reminded almost daily that they need after two years of pandemic. But bills in the state House and Senate (see page 1) might have the unintended consequence of cratering rural health care while not addressing the underlying causes of the problem. Burnout is huge. So is a lack of nursing education programs.

There’s been a nursing shortage in the nation for years, and it was predicted long before that. And yet, bills in the Legislature would simply have the effect of forcing hospitals to either hire more of them or not offer some services until they can.

You can’t hire who doesn’t exist or who chooses to work more independently in our new “gig economy” that lets health care workers decide to go locum.

Locum tenens, that is, a Latin (of course) term for a traveling health pro, who works through an agency, never tied to one employer.

This trend has been overtaking traditional nursing for decades. Is it the answer or the problem?

That’s not certain, but someone in Olympia should really work on figuring that one out before they do something that closes the remaining obstetrics (and other) services left in rural Washington.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher


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