DHS Hearing in Los Angeles Discusses Hospital Nurse Staffing Ratios
Advocates on both sides of the debate over the state's proposed hospital nurse staffing ratios met in Los Angeles on Friday for a Department of Health Services hearing on the issue, the Los Angeles Times reports (Richardson, Los Angeles Times, 11/16). The first-in-the-nation rules, released by Gov. Gray Davis (D) in January, establish mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios at general acute care hospitals and are set to take effect in 2004. The law will cost hospitals in the state nearly $500 million annually at a time when many hospitals in California are losing money from operations (California Healthline, 11/13). The proposal calls for hospitals to have one nurse for every six patients in medical/surgical units; after one year, the ratio would decrease to one nurse for every five patients, the Times reports. During the hearing, hospital officials said the state "already has one of the worst" nurse shortages in the country, and "rigid staffing requirements would be nearly impossible to meet." But nurses said they are "so overloaded" that patient safety could be compromised without the minimum staffing ratios. Stefanie Mearns of California Healthcare Association said, "My colleagues will comply with the law, but severe staffing requirements would cripple most hospitals. I imagine you will see hospitals close, or they will close down their emergency rooms." DHS will hold additional hearings on the issue on Nov. 19 in San Francisco and on Dec. 4 in Fresno (Los Angeles Times, 11/16).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.