Nurses Urge State to Increase Mandated Staffing Levels at Hospitals

Source: NJ Spotlight
A hearing in the state Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee was the first public discussion in years of a bill, S-1183/A-647, that would increase nurse staffing levels.
Mary MacDonald, former executive director of the American Federation of Teachers’ Healthcare Division, said that having more nurses can help prevent hospital-acquired conditions like infections. She noted a Journal of Patient Safety estimate that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the United States and a Lancet study that found that increasing the number of patients that each hospital nurse serves by one apparently results in a 7 percent increase in patient mortality…“How many more people have to die before the evidence is irrefutable?” MacDonald said…
Elfrieda Johnson, board president for JNESO, New Jersey’s other large nurses union, said the state could no longer accept the current staffing levels. “Every person in the state of New Jersey should be able to walk into a hospital, (and) expect the same standard of care regardless of where they live and what hospital they visit – let’s make that a reality,” she said…
Nurses describe situations in which there weren’t enough nurses. Maria Refinski, president of the New Jersey Nurses Union, said she’s seen situations where five nurses were caring for 13 ICU patients. “These patients received adequate care, but barely, and certainly not the type of intensive care that they should have received that night,” she said…
However, Inspira Health Network senior nursing executive Elizabeth Sheridan pointed to other measurements of hospital quality in which New Jersey scores well, including having the fourth-best Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Scores. She said having flexibility in staffing levels has contributed to this.
Sheridan estimated that adding one nurse in a hospital unit would cost each hospital $500,000 annually, since they would have to cover 24 hours per day. “The real question is financial survival,” she said. “How many more hospitals in New Jersey will be forced to close, after adopting higher nurse-patient ratios that’s being proposed?”
…The current version of the bill would require anywhere from one nurse per patient in surgery and under anesthesia to up to six patients per nurse in psychiatric units. It would mandate having one nurse for every two patients in intensive-care units, compared with three patients per intensive-care nurse under current state rules.

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