This November, Massachusetts voters will face a ballot question that would impose government-mandated nurse staffing levels at all hospitals statewide. If Question 1 passes, every hospital would be required to adopt one-size-fits-all nurse-to-patient ratios, enforced at all times. Since the proposed regulation would not take into account a hospital’s size, location, or actual patient needs, its implementation would create unreasonable standards for many of the state’s institutions and nursing departments that could seriously impact their ability to deliver quality care.
“The nursing profession is made up of some of the smartest, most compassionate individuals in health care, and they make complicated and important decisions about patient care every day. This ballot initiative would replace the expertise of nurses and the rest of the clinical care team with rigid government mandates, placing unprecedented strain on the nursing workforce and severely limiting access to behavioral health, psychiatry, and rehabilitation services at institutions like McLean Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation, and other care organizations throughout Massachusetts,” said Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, Chair of the Partners HealthCare Chief Nursing Council and former Senior Vice President for Patient Care Services at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Millions of our state’s patients and families rely on our top-ranked health care system, and this ballot question threatens to disrupt that system.”Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, Chair of the Partners HealthCare Chief Nursing Council
How could this strain directly patient care? First, it could lead to harmful delays in care—slower response times in emergency care due to delays in transferring patients from emergency departments to inpatient and critical care units, and delays in transporting patients in clinical crisis from community hospitals to specialty hospitals. Second, the availability of care could be compromised, with increases in patient transports to other organizations for specialty care, reduced availability of community-based services for medically complex children—and even closures of care units, programs, or entire hospitals.
Furthermore, if hospitals can’t fulfill staffing ratio requirements, each location will be fined $25,000 per incident per day. Many community hospitals will be hard pressed to either fulfill these ratios or absorb added costs associated with the ratios. Hospitals across the state will be forced to make cuts to programs to adhere to new standards, and some of our largest state health care issues will suffer, namely opioid treatments and mental health services.
A “No” vote on November 6 would keep nursing care decision-making where it belongs—in the hands of our nurses.
Learn more about the proposal and our concerns from the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety (video above.)