Schwarzenegger Administration Withdraws Appeal of Nurse-to-Patient Ratio Ruling
Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) on Thursday filed a motion on behalf of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) to withdraw an appeal of an earlier court decision mandating the implementation of nurse staffing rules, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Skidmore, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/12).
Schwarzenegger's administration in November 2004 issued an emergency order to delay until 2008 the implementation of a law that would prohibit one nurse from caring for more than five patients in some hospital departments (Temple, Contra Costa Times, 11/12). Schwarzenegger's administration maintained that hospitals would not be able to afford the cost of hiring additional nurses to comply with the rule (Rau/Lin, Los Angeles Times, 11/12).
In March, Superior Court Judge Judy Holzer Hersher ruled that the administration had not provided evidence that the new rules would create financial problems for hospitals. The emergency order was permanently overturned in June and was upheld by an appellate court. The Schwarzenegger administration appealed the rulings (Martin, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12).
Health and Human Services Agency spokesperson Sabrina Demayo Lockhart said the administration withdrew the appeal because the emergency order was set to expire this week, not because of political reasons (Geis, Washington Post, 11/12). Demayo Lockhart said administration officials were told last year that there weren't enough nurses in the state to meet the lower nurse-to-patient ratios (Marshall, New York Times, 11/12).
However, she added, "We had 10 months of experience with the court-mandated ratios and there seems to be no negative impact on the health care system. Our data shows that hospitals have been able to meet the lower ratios, and some hospitals have even signed it into their labor contracts."
Jim Lott -- executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, who in March voiced opposition to implementing the lower staffing ratios -- said the rules "will have no impact on what hospitals do because they are already attempting to staff at the more stringent levels."
Leaders of the California Nurses Association, which held 107 protests related to the delayed implementation of the ratio, called the administration's decision a "strategic retreat" after last week's special election, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 11/12).
CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro said Thursday's decision represented "an enormous victory" for the union (Thompson, AP/Los Angeles Daily News, 11/12). She added that union officials will meet with the governor when he returns from a trip to China, but indicated that the union likely will oppose Schwarzenegger's bid for re-election.
Jan Emerson, a spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, said "virtually every hospital in the state is meeting the requirement," but she added that California still has 14,000 vacant nursing positions (San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12). In addition, Emerson said hospitals might be having problems maintaining required staffing levels throughout nursing shifts. According to Emerson, hospitals now are focusing on increasing the number of nurses in the state, rather than fighting the nurse-to-patient ratios (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 11/12).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.