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Steve
Posted by Mr. Steve M. W. on Dec 13th, 2017 5:00pm

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), the Organization of Nurse Leaders (ONL), the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals (MCCH) and the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals (COBTH) have come together to launch the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety.  The Coalition is a joint effort formed in response to the political efforts of one union, the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), who has a proposed ballot question to implement one-size-fits-all staffing requirements in every hospital unit statewide.  The proposed question is expected to go before voters in 2018.  The Coalition’s mission is to protect our state’s healthcare system and patients from the costs and consequences of rigid, government-mandated nurse staffing ratios.

Massachusetts is home to some of the best healthcare institutions in the world because our top priorities have always been patient safety and high quality of care. Hospitals across the Commonwealth work collaboratively with their teams of doctors, nurses, and a wide range of other clinicians and support staff to achieve these goals.

Today’s rapidly evolving healthcare delivery system is focused on flexible, integrated care. Registered nurses are a crucial, respected and deeply-valued part of any hospital caregiving team, but continued flexibility and ability of those teams to adapt to changing circumstances for each patient at each hospital is essential. This proposed question would threaten each individual hospital’s ability to respond to the specific needs of their patients and community, compromising safety.

In recent years, the Commonwealth and the country have been grappling with the rising cost of healthcare. If passed, this nurse staffing measure would increase health spending by more than $880 million each year, a burden that will be felt across the healthcare system. Patients would see higher premiums, deductibles, and taxes at a time when many Massachusetts families are already struggling. Hospitals would be forced to cut vital public health programs and services, such as cancer screenings, opioid initiatives, mental health treatment, early childhood intervention, domestic violence programs and pre- or post- natal care. Some smaller community hospitals would be unlikely to survive.

The MNA, which represents less than 25 percent of nurses in Massachusetts, has pushed government mandated staffing ratios at the State House for more than 20 years without success. In fact, despite being considered at length in dozens of states, staffing ratios have only been adopted in California where there is no evidence that they have improved quality of care. It’s easy to say that “having more nurses is a good thing,” but Massachusetts voters must be presented with all of the facts. MNA leadership points to studies that they claim support ratios; however, research has not provided a specific number that would constitute “the right” level of nurse staffing, because no such number exists. What this ballot measure would do is take patient care decisions away from the healthcare professionals at the bedside, and increase healthcare costs in the process.

The Boston Herald got it right in its editorial last week when the paper called the MNA’s petition “'the most irresponsible approach to healthcare — especially in an era of rising costs — that has ever come down the pike.” The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety agrees, and we look forward to a thoughtful discussion in the coming months about how this measure would actually be detrimental to patient safety – which is precisely why we’re against it.


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