Hospitals vs. nurses in battle to prevent patient falls

Hospitals and nurses in Washington are at odds over the best way to prevent falls, KUOW reported

Nurses and their unions have been lobbying heavily for legislation that would require hospitals to increase the size of their nursing staff, citing academic studies that show falls decrease as the number of nurses on the hospital floor increases.

The hospital lobby, however, is opposed to the legislation, and has made its presence felt in the legislatures. Eric Moll, CEO of Mason General Hospital in Shelton, Wash., testified in Olympia in February that the requirement would be burdensome and cost-prohibitive. "Quite honestly, very few businesses could survive this kind of restriction of operations and finances," Moll testified, according to KUOW.

Swedish First Hill Hospital in Des Moines, Wash., acknowledges the issue of falls, but believes there are ways to prevent falls without increasing the size of the nursing staff. For example, they equip high-risk patients' beds with distinctive alarms.

Bernedette Haskins, an operating room nurse at Swedish Cherry Hill, said that measures would be inefficient. "You still need a person to be close enough nearby to be able to respond to the alarm," Haskins told KUOW.

Although the bill died in the Washington House of Representatives, the nurses' union intends to bring it back next year.

In August, a report from the Washington State Department of Health found hospital falls were on the rise, and are a contributing factor to patient complications in 2 percent of hospital stays, FierceHealthcare previously reported. According to KUOW, falls injure or kill a few dozen Washington patients per year. Last year, three Washington hospitals each reported seven fall-related injuries.

"Falls are a leading driver of healthcare costs, especially for the elderly," the American Nurses Association wrote in a statement released in March. "What's more, Medicare and Medicaid do not reimburse hospitals for costs associated with injuries from inpatient falls, essentially increasing unreimbursed hospital healthcare costs."

To learn more:
- here's the KUOW article on the legislation
- read the KUOW article on falls
- here's the ANA full statement