Davis Expected to Announce Minimum Nurse Staffing Standards Today; 1-to-6 Ratio Likely
Gov. Gray Davis (D) is expected to announce today the state's "long-awaited" minimum nursing staffing ratios for hospitals, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Unnamed sources said they expect the Department of Health Services to establish a minimum ratio of "at least one nurse for every six patients on general medical floors, with more nurses assigned to floors with sicker patients" and fewer on floors with less sick patients. Such a ratio would fall in between the 1-to-10 ratio requested by the state's hospitals and the 1-to-3 ratio sought by the California Nurses Association, the "combative union that drew up the legislation requiring staffing ratios." The union's executive director, Rose Ann DeMoro, is expected to join Davis at a press conference in Los Angeles announcing the ratios, which have been the subject of "contentious debate" since 1999, when the governor signed the law to establish them. "We obviously are very, very pleased. These are the first staffing ratios in history of the United States, and a lot of people predicted it would never happen," DeMoro said. Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Healthcare Association, which has said that a strict ratio would increase medical costs and do further damage to already-struggling hospitals, said she was unaware of the governor's plan to announce the ratios. The health department was initially supposed to implement the standards by January 2001 but delayed them until Jan. 1,2002, a deadline that also missed. Davis is likely to announce today the implementation date for the new ratios. Joanne Spetz, a University of California-San Francisco professor and associate director of the Center for California Health Workforce Studies, said a 1-to-6 ratio would be "a logical point to compromise," as the average nurse-to-patient ratio in California general medical wards is currently between 1-to-6 and 1-to-7 (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/22).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.