Published Jul 3, 2003
Posted on Sat, Jun. 28, 2003
No excuses: Hire more nurses
Mercury News Editorial
Stop complaining, start hiring.
That's the prescription for California hospitals that have resisted gearing up for new nurse-patient ratios set to take effect in January.
Revised regulations will be released by the state Tuesday, but hospitals have had preliminary numbers since January, 2002. Big non-profit health care groups such as Catholic Healthcare West, Kaiser Permanente and the University of California system have moved since then to train and hire enough nurses to meet the higher levels of care mandated by the state Department of Health Services.
Other hospitals, however, are lagging -- and claiming they can't possibly find or afford enough registered nurses to meet the ratios.
Nursing groups say the laggards are primarily for-profit chains. Locally, however, HCA-owned hospitals (San Jose Medical Center, Regional Medical Center and Good Samaritan) report they are recruiting as far away as Canada, increasing the size of their permanent staffs and emphasizing on-the-job training of new graduates.
Everyone agrees recruiting more registered nurses in this highly competitive climate will cost millions. But some hospitals are succeeding, in part through creative methods such as offering tuition-free nurse training programs.
There's no longer any doubt that more nurses mean better care. California horror stories about under-staffing are backed up by major studies reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine. Even the hospitals' own oversight agency, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, agrees that inadequate nursing staffs lead to deaths and serious injuries.
People care about this. Nurse-patient ratios have generated more public comment than any other topic in the history of the Department of Health Services. And hospitals have known that more nurses would be needed since Gov. Davis signed legislation back in 1999.
Yes, there's a nursing shortage, but cyclical shortages have occurred for decades. It's no excuse.
If they make it safe staffing and OUTSTANDING pay I would fly down work and fly back! Hospitals always complain they cant pay more when they are posting billion dollar profits! They bill hundreds of dollars an hour for critical care nursing and pay the nurse squat. Supply and demand, demand is up PAY MORE!
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