State Nurse Staffing Laws Contribute to Hospital Capacity Problems in Orange County, Report Finds
State nurse staffing rules that took effect in March have contributed to a hospital bed shortage in Orange County, according to a report released Thursday by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Studying Health System Change, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new rules prohibit one nurse in hospital wards from caring for more than five patients at one time, down from six patients under an earlier version of the rule.
The nurse staffing rules have "aggravated" the hospital capacity situation in Orange County, which also is affected by population growth outpacing hospital construction, according to the Times.
The report found that Orange County has 1.9 hospital beds per 1,000 residents, compared to 3.1 per 1,000 residents on average for other metropolitan areas nationwide (Girion, Los Angeles Times, 8/19). The county population has increased by 20% since 2000, while hospital construction has lagged, the Orange County Register reports.
St. Joseph Health System, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and Kaiser Permanente have expansion plans under way. However, the closure of Brea Community Hospital this year eliminated 162 hospital beds in the county (McCabe, Orange County Register, 8/19).
Because the staffing ratio cannot be exceeded, Orange County hospitals have temporarily closed units and diverted emergency department patients, according to the report.
Orange County is one of 60 areas where CSHSC conducts periodic household and physician surveys and one of 12 sites that it visits every two years to investigate changes in the health care market (Los Angeles Times, 8/19). The report is available online.