Tentative Ruling Upholds State Nurse Staffing Rules; Final Ruling Scheduled for Friday
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Judy Holzer Hersher on Thursday issued a tentative ruling upholding state nurse staffing rules, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Skidmore, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/27).
A state rule stated that nurses would care for no more than six patients at a time. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in November 2004 issued an emergency order delaying until January 2008 the implementation of a law -- passed under former Gov. Gray Davis (D) and scheduled to take effect in March -- that will require nurses to be responsible for the care of no more than five patients at one time.
The California Nurses Association in December 2004 filed a suit alleging the administration's emergency order illegally bypassed the Legislature. Department of Health Services officials have said the delay was necessary to avoid fiscal emergencies at hospitals (California Healthline, 3/7).
In her decision, Holzer Hersher wrote that DHS "abused its discretion and failed to follow the procedures established by law in determining that the regulations were necessary for the immediate preservation of public health and safety" (Chorneau, AP/Ventura County Star, 5/27).
A Health and Human Services Agency statement said, "We're confident in our actions and will appeal today's decision."
CNA spokesperson Chuck Idelson said, "It's a huge decision for patients because (it supports) the purpose of this law. It prevents any moves in the future of the governor to subvert the purpose of the original law, which is to protect patient safety" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/27).
Holzer Hersher is expected to issue a final ruling Friday.
The ruling applies only to emergency regulations, which can take effect immediately without public comment. According to the Sacramento Bee, emergency regulations remain in effect for 120 days after being issued "but can be renewed indefinitely."
The Schwarzenegger administration is working to enact permanent regulations that stipulate a one-to-six nurse-to-patient ratio (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 5/27).
In related news, PBS' "NOW" on Friday is scheduled to include an interview with Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of CNA, about the organization's opposition to efforts by Schwarzenegger -- "a formidable political opponent" -- to delay state nurse staffing rules. According to PBS, CNA's fight against Schwarzenegger's staffing proposal has been "surprisingly effective in influencing" the administration's policy agenda and some credit the group for Schwarzenegger's "slumping approval ratings."
The program's Web site includes an overview of the issue, a biography of DeMoro and links to related resources (Brancaccio, "NOW," PBS, 5/27). A complete transcript and video of the program in RealPlayer will be available online after the broadcast. Check local PBS listings for show times.