Nurses, Health Industry Officials Differ on Nurse-to-Patient Ratios
California nurses and health industry officials are squaring off over proposed nurse-to-patient ratio standards, the AP/Ventura County Star reports. A 1999 state law slated to take effect at the beginning of next year requires the state Department of Health Services to set a minimum number of nurses for 19 specialized units, including surgical, burn, labor and delivery departments. However, nurses and industry officials disagree on adequate staffing levels for those units. For example, the health care industry has suggested a ratio of one nurse for every six emergency room patients, while nurses want one nurse for every two ER patients. The industry has already submitted its recommendations to DHS, which is scheduled to release a draft plan this fall. The debate over nurse staffing levels comes during a statewide nursing shortage. Currently, California ranks last in the country in the number of working registered nurses for its population, according to Kay Baker, associate dean of student affairs at the University of California-Los Angeles School of Nursing. California has 566 nurses per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 798, Baker said. Los Angeles County ranked last in the state, with 480 nurses per 100,000 people, while the Bay Area counties had the highest nursing ratio with 712 nurses per 100,000 individuals. Beginning Jan. 10 and running through March, the California Nurses Association will hold town-hall meetings statewide to discuss the nurse-to-patient ratio issue (Lota, AP/Ventura County Star, 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.