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Massachusetts first responders advocate for patient safety in support of Question 1 Safe Patient Limits

Press release: Boston Fire 718, paramedics, first responders, ER nurses endorse Question 1

BOSTON – Today, first responders joined nurses in their support for Question 1, An act relative to patient safety and hospital transparency (the Patient Safety Act), to improve care for patients. In their endorsement of Question 1, first responders shared what they know: Patients will get better care with shorter ED wait times and better patient flow – from the ambulance, to the ED, to the unit where they need to receive care.

View video from this event. 

“In their ads, hospital executives say things like they will have to turn away emergency department patients if Question 1 passes. Not only is that against the law, it also defies common sense,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, President of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “Patients wait a long time now in the emergency department because there are not nurses available to care for them. Question 1 will mean addressing that problem and making sure every patient has a nurse.”

“As firefighters, we work with nurses every day and see firsthand how dedicated and hard-working they are” said Richard Paris, President of Boston Firefighters Local 718. “We know that nurses are there for their patients and do everything possible to make sure that you and your loved ones receive the care they deserve in the hospital.”

“I know from 15 years of experience in the Emergency Department that more nurses means better care,” said Ellen MacInnis, RN, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center. “In the emergency department we take care of everybody who comes through the doors and we do so as quickly and efficiently as possible. We have far too much respect for our firefighters, our paramedics and our EMTs to leave them in the hallways taking care of our patients; such claims are ridiculous. What will shorten wait times and improve care in Emergency Departments all across the commonwealth of Massachusetts is more nurses.”

“I’m proud to stand with my fellow first responders and nurses today in favor of Question 1 the simple fact is: more nurses means better care and more resources for the patients,” said Phil Petit, National Director, NAGE EMS. “Question 1 is all about providing the best possible care to as many patients as possible. Despite what you may have been told, Question 1 is not something that will result in lower quality services being provided. There are protections in Question 1 that guarantee current staffing levels and urge hospital to hire more nurses and make sure that our patients get the care that they deserve. Our EMS professionals like to say that their radio is always on; voting YES for Question 1 will not change that. Our responders will be there when a call comes in, no matter what. Vote YES on 1.”

Question 1 calls for nurses and management for every unit, including the emergency department to develop an acuity tool and hospital specific plans on how to meet the care needs of patients. One of the many deceptive ads put out by the opposition claims that emergency rooms will have to limit capacity, turning away up to 100 patients.

View press release: Hospital executives continue to threaten and deceive voters with latest ad

This deceptive claim is a regular talking point for the hospital executive opposition in an attempt to scare voters. The claim is simply false and is blatantly misleading to the public, nowhere in the law is there any requirement to reject care for a patient due to the limits.

Right now, Massachusetts hospital emergency department patients experience some of the longest wait times in the nation, ranking 48 out of 50 states, precisely because we don’t have enough nurses in our emergency departments to assess, help treat and stabilize patients; and too few nurses on the other floors of the hospital to allow those patients who are waiting to leave the emergency department to be moved onto one of those floors.

This is validated by peer reviewed research demonstrating that excessive patient assignments are causing longer wait times for Massachusetts patients. We also know that in in California, where they have had a similar law for 14 years, there are more nurses in their emergency departments and on their hospital units, and as a result, their wait times are 47 percent shorter than ours here in Massachusetts with better outcomes for those patients.

The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) passed by Congress in 1986 prevents emergency departments from turning away patients.
“EMTALA requires hospitals with emergency departments to provide a medical screening examination to any individual who comes to the emergency department and requests such an examination, and prohibits hospitals with emergency departments from refusing to examine or treat individuals with an emergency medical condition (EMC).”

Furthermore, the Department of Health and Human Services has a “no diversion” policy which only allows the diversion of patients under extreme circumstances and calls for hospitals to develop comprehensive plan to deal with overcrowding.
“Effective June 1, 2009, ambulance services may honor diversion requests only when a hospital’s emergency department (ED)’s status is “code black,” which means that it is closed to all patients due to an internal emergency.”

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