Nurses Group Will File Lawsuit Demanding Stricter Staffing Requirements
The California Nurses Association will sue the Office of Administrative Law to overturn the delay and relaxation of nurse staffing rules proposed by the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro announced Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 12/2).
Department of Health Services officials in November proposed to delay until at least January 2008 a decrease -- originally scheduled for Jan. 1, 2005 -- in the nurse-to-patient ratio for medical-surgical units from 1-to-6 to 1-to-5. DHS also would allow hospitals to suspend temporarily compliance with nurse staffing rules for EDs in the event of an "unforeseeable influx" of patients. In addition, DHS proposed reversing a requirement that hospitals replace nurses on bathroom breaks.
DHS has submitted the proposals to the OAL, which is expected to approve them. DHS likely will hold a public hearing on the proposals in mid-January (California Healthline, 11/30).
CNA spokesperson Chuck Idelson said the union also plans to sue Schwarzenegger and DHS because "they have exceeded their authority to make emergency regulations" (Wasserman, AP/Orange County Register, 12/2).
DeMoro made the announcement at the end of one of three demonstrations organized by CNA and the Service Employees International Union on Wednesday. At one of the demonstrations, about 2,500 union members protested Schwarzenegger's decision at the state Capitol, and afterward several hundred members walked to Sutter General Hospital to continue the protest, according to the Bee.
"It is disgraceful that this governor has put hospital profits ahead of patient safety," DeMoro told protesters Wednesday.
An unnamed Schwarzenegger spokesperson said the governor would not comment on the regulations or union action around the state (Sacramento Bee, 12/2).
Jan Emerson, spokesperson for California Healthcare Association, on Wednesday said the nurses' union members "are the only ones on the planet who say there isn't a nursing shortage" (AP/Orange County Register, 12/2).
Joanne Spetz, a professor with the Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of California-San Francisco, said, "With a shortage of workers, it is the perfect time for unions to press a political agenda. It is particularly savvy to link safety with staffing levels because everybody has been a patient or at least knows somebody who has been hospitalized" (Sacramento Bee, 12/2).
Although more registered nurses "are coming into the state than are leaving," the proposed revision to the nurse staffing rules "threatens to change that," CNA President Deborah Burger writes in a Bee opinion piece. "In promoting the agenda of wealthy hospital companies at the expense of our most vulnerable population, hospital patients, Schwarzenegger is hardly putting people above special interests," Burger concludes (Burger, Sacramento Bee, 12/1).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.