September 11, 2018

Cooley Dickinson Opposes Ballot Question 1/Nurse Staff Ratio Legislation

September 11, 2018

Cooley Dickinson Health Care Opposes Ballot Question 1, Nurse Staff Ratios

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Cooley Dickinson Health Care joins the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association; the American Nurses Association – Massachusetts; the Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing; and the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative in opposing ballot Question 1, the legislation that would mandate nurse staffing ratios in all Massachusetts hospitals at all times.

Forced Ratios: No Flexibility
The November statewide ballot question, Question 1, attempts to set rigid ratios for the number of patients a nurse can take care of in a hospital, with the numbers depending on the type of unit within the hospital. These ratios would be required regardless of local circumstances, such as a major car crash, a house fire, or another situation that would result in a surge of patients arriving at a hospital in a short period of time.

“Government mandated, fixed approaches to meeting the changing needs of hospitalized patients would have severe consequences,” Chief Nursing Officer Angela Belmont, DNP, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, says of the potential impact of Question 1.

“Currently, staffing decisions are made by nurses and managers. Together, they consider many factors such as the acuity of patients, admission/discharge/transfer activity, availability of support staff, and the experience level of nurses to provide the most appropriate care to each patient.

“If the legislation passes, Massachusetts hospitals would need to hire and train more than 5,000 registered nurses in a seven-week period.” Belmont adds that it will simply not be possible to hire experienced, qualified nurses. “Many hospitals will have to consider reducing patient care units in order to comply. It’s inevitable that some programs will close; it is predicted that some community hospitals would close.”

Increased Costs of Health Care, Delays in Care
Under the proposed legislation, a $25,000 fine would be imposed each time a hospital does not meet the mandated nurse-patient ratios.

For example, if Cooley Dickinson’s Emergency Department is already at the limit of the ratio prescribed by the legislation, nurses could not treat another patient without risking a fine. This could lead to delays in patients receiving care.

If Question 1 becomes law, consider these facts:
• Conservative estimates indicate that the initiative would increase health care costs in Massachusetts close to $1 billion each year. Cooley Dickinson, like most community hospitals, is particularly at risk; the organization would need to eliminate $6.5-9 million in spending elsewhere in its budget to meet the ballot requirements.

• In Massachusetts, more than 5,000 nurses would need to be hired and trained to meet mandated ratios. Based on Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association and Organization of Nurse Leaders estimates, the state is already short more than 1,200 registered nurses. The initiative would bring that deficit to 6,200.

• The cost of the mandated ratios will, to some extent, be passed on to insurance companies and therefore to our community. Health care costs are already high. Adding more expenses to health care in Massachusetts may put care out of reach for some people.

The ballot question is opposed by the American Nurses Association – Massachusetts; Emergency Nurses Association – Massachusetts Chapter; Organization of Nurse Leaders; Infusion Nurses Society; Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing;  Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ Greater Boston Chapter; the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative; the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians; the Massachusetts Medical Society; the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association; the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals; the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals; and other health care and business leaders across the state.

For more information, visit www.protectpatientsafety.com/