NURSES: Labor Bills Aim to Fix Unsafe Staffing Levels
Frustrated with managed care's "penny-pinching" orders that place too few nurses in charge of too many patients, nurses are taking their complaints to Sacramento as two new bills, both backed by labor organizations, make their way through the state Legislature. Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl's (D-Encino) AB 394 would require minimum nurse staffing ratios at acute care hospitals. While the bill enjoys support from the 30,000-member California Nurses Association, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that it has come under fire from the hospital industry, which see the measure as "a job guarantee bill" that would increase costs.
The second bill, AB 675, would "require public disclosure of staffing policies and procedures, and it would give the state Department of Health Services teeth to enforce safe standards," the Press Democrat reports. Sponsored by Assemblywoman Helen Thomson (D-Davis), the bill is backed by the Service Employees International Union, which represents 40,000 California nurses. Although not widely supported by the hospital industry, officials have called it a "more moderate approach to protecting patient rights" because it does not impose any ratios. The two bills were revived from last year's session, and legislators hope they will "find a more sympathetic fate" under Gov. Gray Davis' administration (Lauer, 4/14).