Nurses union, hospitals battle over ballot question setting patient limits

Boston Globe: “Every time you add another patient to your workload, you miss things,” said Marlena Pellegrino, a union official and a nurse at Saint Vincent Hospital in Worcester for the past 31 years. “Things fall through the cracks.”

A ballot initiative backed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association would set strict limits on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time, for all hospital units in the state. Union nurses say they are often overburdened, leaving them unable to give the best possible care and increasing the risk of patient falls, infections, and other complications. …

The ballot measure sets different staffing ratios for different parts of the hospital. For typical medical and surgical patients, one nurse would be responsible for no more than four patients at a time, according to the initiative. For sicker patients, the limits are more strict.

Many hospitals already staff nurses at about the levels detailed in the ballot question, but they add or reduce nurses depending on needs. Hospitals tend to staff fewer workers at night, when more patients are sleeping.

The ballot question would forbid hospitals from meeting the costs of the nurse staffing regulations by cutting other health care workers and impose penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation.


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