Appeals Court Denies Schwarzenegger’s Request for Delay of Nurse Staffing Rules
The Third District Court of Appeals on Thursday denied a request by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration to delay a court order requiring hospitals to have at least one nurse on staff for every five patients, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Schwarzenegger requested that the new rule be suspended while the court considers the administration's appeal of a Sacramento Superior Court decision made last month. That decision stated that Schwarzenegger acted illegally in November 2004 by issuing an emergency order to block the new staffing rule from taking effect on Jan. 1 (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/7).
The case involves a lawsuit filed by the California Nurses Association in December 2004 that alleged the Department of Health Services illegally delayed implementation of the ratio with the issue of the emergency order.
The emergency order sought to delay until January 2008 the implementation of the ratio. Under the emergency order, nurses could have cared for no more than six patients at one time.
DHS officials have said that the delay was required to avoid fiscal emergencies at hospitals.
The new nurse staffing ratio took effect after Sacramento Superior Court Judge Judy Holzer Hersher signed a March 4 decision ruling that no evidence existed to support the use of the emergency order. She also denied a request from the administration for a stay of her decision pending appeal (California Healthline, 3/15).
Per Thursday's decision, hospitals must continue to comply with the new staffing rules. A Sacramento Superior Court judge on May 27 will hear arguments on the emergency regulation (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 4/8).
DHS officials said the ruling "is not an indication of the ultimate outcome of our appeal." Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshe said, "We're confident in our actions, and we're not backing down" (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 4/7).
CNA President Deborah Burger said, "California taxpayers may well be asking how much public funds this governor is willing to spend in a long court battle to make hospitals less safe" (Oakland Tribune, 4/8).