Judge’s Final Ruling Upholds New Nurse Staffing Ratio Rules
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Judy Holzer Hersher on Tuesday issued a final ruling barring the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) from delaying the implementation of state nurse staffing rules through an emergency order, the Sacramento Bee reports (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 6/8).
Under rules passed under former Gov. Gray Davis (D) and scheduled to take effect in March, nurses can care for no more than five patients at a time. Previously, the state mandated that nurses could care for no more than six patients at a time. Schwarzenegger in November 2004 issued an emergency order delaying until January 2008 the implementation of the lower ratio.
The California Nurses Association in December 2004 filed a suit alleging the administration's emergency order illegally bypassed the Legislature. Department of Health Services officials have said the delay was necessary to avoid fiscal emergencies at hospitals
Holzer Hersher last month issued a tentative ruling on the issue that barred the Schwarzenegger administration from blocking the lower nurse-to-patient ratio rules from taking effect (California Healthline, 5/27).
In upholding her previous decision, Holzer Hersher said Schwarzenegger overstepped his legal authority when he issued the emergency order delaying implementation of the lower ratio (Sacramento Bee, 6/8).
CNA President Deborah Burger said the ruling "sends a compelling, unmistakable message that this governor is not above the rule of law and that a law enacted to protect patients may not be sabotaged simply to financially benefit his hospital corporate donors."
Health and Human Services Agency spokesperson Nicole Kasabian Evans said the Schwarzenegger administration "will vigorously appeal this decision," adding, "Patient safety is a top priority for the Schwarzenegger administration. We believe a one-to-six ratio is a safe ratio."
Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, also said her organization will appeal the ruling.
According to the AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, Holzer Hersher in her ruling "declined" to prevent the administration from developing permanent regulations to ease the staffing requirement.
Kasabian Evans said that process will continue (Thompson, AP/San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/8).