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Nurses/Advocates Outraged by Senate Ways & Means Committee’s Gutting of Safe Staffing Bill, Which Will Codify Current Unsafe Conditions in Hospitals and Continue to Place Thousands of Patients in Jeopardy

Measure Eliminates House Compromise Bill’s Call for Safe Staffing Standards and Patient Limits, Allowing Hospital Administrators to Continue to Set Their Own Staffing Levels.

Nurses and patient advocates, who have been awaiting Senate action on pending legislation to guarantee safe RN staffing and improved patient safety, are outraged by the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s release of a harmful version of the bill that will allow the state’s hospitals to continue the dangerous and deadly status quo.

The new senate bill removes all key compromise provisions achieved through negotiations with legislators and key stakeholders which were contained in the version that passed the House (119-35) on May 22. The House version called upon the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to create industry-wide staffing standards and patient limits to assure safe patient care in all Massachusetts hospitals. The new Senate version continues to place hospital administrators in charge of setting their own staffing standards, a practice that has led to a health care crisis in Massachusetts, where more than 45,000 patients a year are injured and more than 2,000 patients – six a day – die from preventable infections and complications they get in the hospital. The Senate version also guts protections against the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime, which is key to preventing medication errors by exhausted staff.

Additionally, the Senate bill fails to recognize the overwhelming body of research that links safe patient outcomes directly to the number of patients a nurse is caring for at one time. It also greatly broadens the power of hospital administrators, who can cut corners and dangerously increase a nurse’s patient load.

Under the new law, there would be no uniform standard of care, and instead, the Department of public Health would only be in charge of enforcing varying and inadequate standards created by the private sector hospital industry - including the for profit hospitals. Simply put; this legislation is a hazardous step backward, and would ensure that current unsafe conditions continue to deteriorate.

We call upon our senators to reject this bill that is so dangerous to the public’s safety. We ask instead that senators build upon the negotiated compromise that has already been reached and passed the House. This would allow the Department of Public Health to enforce limits that it determines are in the public’s best interest, rather than leaving that critical job to the very institutions that created the crisis we now face.

The new bill, S. 2805, is scheduled to be taken up for a debate and vote as early as tomorrow, Thursday, July 17. Nurses and patient advocates are now mobilizing to urge Senate adoption of amendments that reinstitute the protections in the House bill.

The original compromise bill is supported by more than 130 of the state’s leading health care and consumer advocacy organizations, as well as more than 80 percent of the bedside nurses and 70 percent of physicians whose ability to care for the safety of their patients would be favorably affected by passage of the House version of the bill.

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