By WEI YU
Capital News Service
LANSING – Rep. Jon Switalski, D-Warren, wants to require hospitals to come up with a plan to set minimum nurse-to-patient ratios and to ban mandatary overtime for nurses.
The bill aims to mandate that hospitals maintain detailed staff-to-patient ratios specified in the bill.
More than 500 nurses from the state recently rallied at the Capitol to bring attention to the issue.
Jeff Breslin, president of the Michigan Nurses Association, a union which represents more than 10,000 registered nurses around the state, said the rally was successful. It showed legislators that nurses are passionate about advocating for their patients not just inside the hospital, but also out in communities and in our political system as well, he said.
“Nurses are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to our patients, and I think legislators heard that loud and clear. The rally made the public more aware of the issues, that affect them,” Breslin said. “The rally also got us fired up to become even more politically active and ready to hold elected officials accountable in November.”
Debra Nault, an instructor at the Michigan State University College of Nursing, said, “It’s really hard to work a busy 12-hour shift and not have enough nurses for the patients that you are taking care of.
“We have such a wealth of research and literature now about how patient ratios do make a difference,” Nault said.
According to the American Nurses Association, California was the first state to enact a mandatory nurse-patient ratio law and remains the only state with minimum nurse staffing requirements.
A study from Health Services Research, a multidisciplinary scientific field, has shown that two years after implementation of mandated staffing ratios, there was a relation between adequate staffing and a lower death rate for patients. Most California nurses reported that the law achieved its goals of reducing nurse workloads, improved recruitment and retention of nurses, and had a favorable impact on quality of care.
“Everyone wins if the bill passes – patients get better care, hospitals save money and nurses are able to do their jobs,” Breslin said.
“Unfortunately the hospitals have managed to dissuade many legislators from supporting safe patient care, even though their objections don’t hold water,” he said. “This is a reflection of our legislature’s warped priorities: instead of listening to the professional nurses who do this job every day, they choose to side with corporations and help protect profits.”
“Hospitals are too often failing to meet their obligation to provide adequate staffing to make sure that patients are safe and well-cared for. When nurses are stretched too thin or we’ve been working a double shift even though we’re exhausted, we just can’t give every patient the quality care they need and deserve,” Breslin said.
“Michigan needs legislation to require hospitals to provide adequate nursing staff so we can do our jobs and give every patient proper care,” he added.
Kevin Downey, vice president of public affairs at Michigan Health and Hospital Association, disagrees.
“The Michigan Health and Hospital Association has historically opposed mandated nurse staffing ratios, preferring staffing strategies specifically tailored to meet the clinical needs of patients while also recognizing the skills of staff on duty at each individual facility,” Downey said.
“While mandatory overtime is not the preferred option to staff a hospital, it must be available as an option to ensure appropriate patient care. When all other alternatives have been exhausted and care must be delivered to patients, the ability to require staff to remain in active roles is critical to patient safety,” he said.
“We have a shortage of nurses in this state, and the legislation does not address this root cause of the workforce shortage,” he said. “Penalizing hospitals by fining them for something over which they have no control is a drain on resources and actually hurts hospitals’ ability to appropriately care for patients.”
Downey said in California, where similar legislation was passed, at least one hospital closed because of the fines they incurred that they could not avoid, which meant that community saw reduced access to health care services.
“Ratios have also resulted in patients being diverted from emergency departments to other hospitals and, in other cases, hospitals have been unable to transfer patients from their emergency departments to other hospitals for needed care because the receiving hospital could not meet the ratio requirements,” Downey said.
The bill is pending in the House Health Policy Committee and is co-sponsored by Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit and Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon and Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing.