For Immediate Release April 15, 2004
Contact: Donna Gerber, 916-919-1226 or Charles Idelson, 510-273-2246
RNs Urge Legislature to Reject Workers Comp Bill,
Proposal Would Penalize Injured Nurses, Harm Retention Efforts
The California Nurses Association today criticized the workers compensation plan approved by a legislative conference committee this morning, saying it could have especially severe consequences for registered nurses and other healthcare workers. CNA urged the full legislature to reject the bill.
Under the new plan, workers could be denied coverage for severely disabling back, shoulder and knee injuries - "exactly the type of workplace injuries that have become increasingly common in the stressful healthcare setting," said CNA President Deborah Burger, RN. "Without the safeguard of appropriate workers compensation, care could be delayed. An RN who might otherwise only miss a short period of work could end up suffering long term or permanent damage and endure unnecessary pain and suffering."
Burger added that the loss of RNs due to permanent work related injuries would also compromise efforts to reduce turnover and promote retention of RNs at a time when California is finally making progress due to the state's recently implemented RN staffing ratio law and other workplace improvements.
Healthcare workers lead the nation in the musculoskeletal disorders that may be disallowed under the workers compensation bill. Tens of thousands of such injuries are reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics every year. RNs, 95% of them who are women, are especially vulnerable. It is estimated that that up to 50% of current RNs will suffer a work-related back injury during their career.
Many of these disabilities are associated with lifting patients. A separate CNA-sponsored bill, AB 2532, introduced by Assembly member Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), would require hospitals to provide lift teams for healthcare workers to reduce preventable back injuries. It would also require insurance companies to reduce rates for hospitals providing lift teams. The bill will be heard next Wednesday, April 21, in the Assembly Labor Committee.
CNA also said it opposes other components of the workers compensation plan, including the reduction of benefits for workers with diabetes, osteoporosis or birth related conditions who suffer work injuries, and the failure to regulate insurance rates.
"The real reason for higher workers compensation costs includes price gouging by insurance companies and the healthcare industry as a whole and the failure of many employers to ensure safer workplaces," said Burger. "None of the real causes are addressed by this plan, which penalizes all working people while rewarding the already wealthy insurance industry."