Nurses’ Union Proposes Minimum Staffing Levels for Hospitals
Continuing the debate over nurse staffing levels, the California Nurses Association yesterday unveiled a proposed set of staffing ratios that is "deeply at odds with the numbers proposed last summer" by the California Healthcare Association, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Under a "first-in-the-nation" law signed in 1999, set to take effect next January, the California Department of Health Services will determine minimum staffing ratios for all hospitals in the state. While the nurses' union and CHA, which represents hospitals, agree that the current ratio of one nurse for every two intensive care patients is acceptable, they disagree on almost all other ratios. The proposals broken down by hospital department, as reported by the Chronicle, appear below:
- Sub-acute care or "long term convalescence": the hospitals want one licensed nurse per 16 patients; nurses want one to four.
- Emergency and recovery rooms: hospitals want one to six; unions one to three.
- Psychiatric wards: Hospitals want one to 12; unions want one to four (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/13).
Union nurses say their plan will reduce the current nursing shortage by "improv[ing] work conditions and eventually encourag[ing] more nurses to work in hospitals" (Cooper, AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/13). CNA President Kay McVay said, "Adopting strong, effective and enforceable ratios is the best response to the nursing care crisis that is undermining the quality of care in California hospitals, and driving out frustrated and exhausted RNs. Our proposal ... would restore the tattered patient safety net, rebuild our nursing care infrastructure and redress the nursing shortage" (CNA release, 3/12). However, CHA spokesperson Jan Emerson said that enacting stringent nursing ratios will not "solve" the shortage. "Our concern is that hospitals can't find nurses now but what if we can't find enough for a lower ratio? Is the state going to shut down the hospital? Nobody wins then," she said (AP/Sacramento Bee, 3/13). To read a summary of the CNA report, go to http://www.calnurse.org/cna/nrsptrt/ihspab394.pdf. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the summary.
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