Davis Announces Approval of New Nurse-to-Patient Ratio Regulations
Gov. Gray Davis (D) on Monday announced that the Office of Administrative Law has approved new state regulations to establish nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals that will begin to take effect on Jan. 1, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 9/30). Under the new rules -- the first such regulations in the nation -- nurses will not have to care for more than eight patients at a time. The rules, the result of a law that Davis signed in 1999, also call for one nurse per five patients in medical-surgical units by 2005, as well as one nurse per four patients in specialty care and telemetry units and one nurse per three patients in step-down units by 2008. In addition, the regulations state that licensed vocational nurses can comprise no more than 50% of the licensed nurses assigned to patient care and that only registered nurses can care for critical trauma patients. The rules also require at least one registered nurse to serve as a triage nurse in emergency departments (California Health Line, 7/2). In addition, the regulations will require hospitals to document nurse assignments to individual patients by licensure category for each day and each shift; hospitals must retain the documentation for at least one year (Office of the Governor release, 9/29). The Department of Health Services estimates that the new regulations will cost hospitals about $422 million in 2004, $652 million in 2005 and more than $956 million in 2008 (California Health Line, 7/2).
Davis said, "This nurse-to-patient ratio is groundbreaking, and in the end, everyone in California wins." Charles Idelson, a spokesperson for the California Nurses Association, which supports the new rules, said, "We believe that these ratios are an excellent start to improving staffing in hospitals." However, the California Hospital Association, a hospital industry group, raised concerns that the nursing shortage in the state would "make compliance with the staffing ratios all but impossible," the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 9/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.