Hospitals, nurses clash on staffing ratios

Massachusetts nurses and hospital executives are at odds over legislation that requires lower nurse-patient ratios, New England Public Radio reports.

Hospital officials oppose the measure, saying it will increase expenses without improving care. For example, for Springfield-based Baystate Health, the bill would mean "$20 million in extra costs, and we would have to find an additional, say, 200 nurses to meet those requirements," Steven Bradley, Baystate's head of government relations, told NEPR.

Moreover, patients in Massachusetts hospitals already receive some of the highest-quality care in the nation, Massachusetts Hospital Association President Lynn Nicholas told the state Healthcare Financing Committee on Monday, according to the Associated Press.

If the state legislature does not take action on the bill, it will likely gto voters as a ballot initiative in November, according to the NEPR article. "The legislators have a few months to act, and if they don't, the voters will decide," David Schildmeier, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), told NEPR.

"From the public's perspective, it is absolutely in their interests to support this ballot initiative so that when they're in the hospital or a loved one is in the hospital, there is no doubt there will an adequate number of registered nurses to care for them to assure they get safe, quality nursing care," Judith Shindul-Rothschild, Ph.D., of the Connell School of Nursing at Boston College said in a statement from the MNA and National Nurses United.

But the American Nurses Association (ANA) also opposes the measure, according to Lexology. The ANA argues that, rather than mandatory ratios, hospitals should personalize staffing plans for individual hospital units, accounting for individual patient needs and staff experience levels.

The MNA obtained 114,000 signatures for the measure, far more than the required 68,911, according to the Lexology article. If the legislature fails to act or kills the measure, the MNA must collect 11,485 more signatures by July 2 to get on the November ballot.

To learn more:
- here's the NEPR article
- here's the AP article
- here's the statement
- read the Lexology article