Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), whose career has been marked by his willingness to regulate healthcare, is hoping to make yet another mark. This time, Stark has filed a new bill which would set limits on the use of forced overtime by nurses. The bill, the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act, is endorsed by the American Nurses Association, as well as labor groups like the SEIU and AFL-CIO. Under the terms of the bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH), facilities could only require overtime if the local, state or federal government is facing a state of emergency. It also offers protections for nurses who speak out about what they see as excessively long working hours. The act would give HHS new powers to enforce these standards, which would be written into Medicare provider agreements. Nursing homes would be exempt, however, largely because there's other legislation pending which would address labor allocation issues in that industry.
In reality, the bill is unlikely to pass this time around, given the financial and operational impact it could have on facilities. However, the proposed regs are part of a larger picture in which long physician and nursing work schedules are increasingly seen as unsustainable. Given the well-documented safety concerns arising from extra-long shifts, hospitals should be prepared for the day when they're no longer acceptable.
To get more background:
- read Rep. Stark's press release
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