many silicon valley hospitals are preparing to go on a hiring spree after a state court ruled march 4 that bitterly contested regulations governing nurse-to-patient ratios can no longer be delayed.
the regulations, arising from a 1999 law, require california hospitals to boost their medical and surgical unit nursing staffs to one nurse for every five patients, up from one nurse for every six patients last year.
that won't be easy for hospitals like san jose's good samaritan hospital and mountain view's el camino hospital, which face significant recruitment efforts at a time when california is facing a shortage of nurses. both are staffing at one-to-six ratios in their medical and surgical units.
for others -- like kaiser permanente, which is already exceeding the new ratios --the regulations will not require a shift in personnel patterns.
last november, gov. arnold schwarzenegger used an emergency order to block the new ratios from being enforced. the administration said the higher staffing levels would strain hospitals financially, forcing closures.
the state nurses union challenged the order and won the march 4 ruling that lifts the emergency stay. the governor has vowed to appeal the ruling.
but whenever the ratios take effect, local hospitals say it will be a struggle to meet the new standards.
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