Press release: Measure will protect patients and improve care in Massachusetts hospitals
BOSTON — Today, the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care delivered over 100,000 signatures to the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth in support of A Law Relative to Patient Safety and Hospital Transparency (or, the Patient Safety Act). The Patient Safety Act will dramatically improve patient safety in Massachusetts hospitals by setting a safe maximum limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time, while providing flexibility to hospitals to adjust nurses’ patient assignments based on specific patient needs. The measure will be for voters’ consideration on the 2018 ballot.
Members of the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care gathered at the State House steps this morning where supporters rallied and listened to remarks from:
- Karen Coughlin, RN – Vice President, Massachusetts Nurses Association
- William Galvin – Secretary of the Commonwealth
- Angela Ortiz – Massachusetts Pediatric Home Nursing Campaign; mother to 4-year-old daughter Ayla, a child with complex medical needs
- Jeffrey C. Crosby – President, North Shore Labor Council
- Janet Rapoza – Coalition for Social Justice Education Fund
Accompanied by ambulance, committee members wheeled gurneys holding completed signature papers from the State House to the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
“The nurses that care for Ayla are exceptional. They do the best they can but the reality is that they are stretched so incredibly thin, through no fault of their own,” said Ortiz. “When nurses are assigned too many patients, alarms and call buttons go unanswered, meds are missed, and meals are forgotten. I know this, because we have lived it, and as a parent, that’s terrifying.”
“Nurses are tasked with addressing life or death scenarios every single day, and are the critical line of defense protecting your loved ones,” said Crosby. “There are safe staffing limits for so many other fields, like daycare providers and children, pharmacists and support staff, nursing home care providers and residents. Study after study after study shows that safe staffing limits are a no-brainer.”
“Beyond the obvious concerns about patient safety, here’s the part that hospital administrators won’t tell you: This makes smart fiscal sense,” said Coughlin. “Put simply, hospital financial performance improves with better nursing staffing and safer patient limits, because readmissions and longer hospital stays cost more money.”
Numerous studies show that when nurses have safe patient assignments as proposed by the Patient Safety Act, patient readmissions, medical errors, infections and other complications are dramatically reduced, saving health care systems millions of dollars each year.
Today, outside of acute care hospital intensive care units, there is no law that specifies how many patients a nurse can safely care for at one time in all other patient care areas. It is not uncommon for nurses in Massachusetts to have six, seven or even eight patients at a time, when a safe limit would be no more than four patients for a nurse on a typical medical/surgical floor.
Massachusetts hospitals are penalized millions of dollars each year by Medicare for excessive readmissions and other preventable complications. The Health Policy Commission recently reported that Massachusetts hospitals spend more than $700 million each year on preventable readmissions. Massachusetts ranks sixth worst in the nation for preventable readmissions, and 80% of Massachusetts hospitals have been penalized by Medicare for those readmissions. Moreover, California implemented a law setting safe patient limits in 2004 – no hospital has closed as a result of this law, and the profitability of the California hospital industry has increased every year since the law went into effect.