Published Jan 12, 2004
The above link is from a radio debate BEFORE the implementation of the Safe Staffing Law
Nurse staffing at crux of suit
By Henry Winckel, The Porterville Recorder
A trade association representing nearly 500 California hospitals has filed a lawsuit against the state over three words: "At all times." The words are contained in a law that took effect Jan. 1 - Assembly Bill 394 - requiring that every hospital be in continuous compliance with government-prescribed staffing ratios for nurses. The California Healthcare Association says the law as written prohibits nurses from taking any breaks without additional nurses being assigned to replace them.
"To be in compliance every minute of every shift of every day is an impossible standard for hospitals to meet, especially with the nursing shortage," said Jan Emerson, vice president of external affairs for California Healthcare Association. "What we are hearing up and down the state is that no hospital is in compliance."
If hospitals are unable to meet the nurse staffing ratios, their only "lawful response" is to reduce access to care, Emerson said.
In its lawsuit, the California Healthcare Association warns that "unless immediate action is taken, hospitals throughout California may be forced to reduce access to patient care by canceling elective surgeries, discharging patients sooner and delaying new hospital admissions."
Charles Idelson, communications director for California Nurses Association, said Thursday he was disappointed but not surprised by the lawsuit.
CNA sponsored AB 394 and battled for 12 years to get it passed.
"They are doing this only to further their political attack on a law that expands the safety net for patients in hospitals," Idelson said.
He said there's a provision in the law that allows charge nurses and clinical supervisors not directly involved in patient care to provide break relief.
Idelson also said the primary reason for the law is to protect patients. There's a direct link between safe staffing and fewer deaths, he said.
"People are in a hospital only when they're extremely ill or badly injured," he said. "What is the argument for a period of time that someone should not have safe care?"
Henry Winckel can be reached at 784-5000, ext. 1043 or by e-mail at [email protected]
Patient comfort paramount
As a registered nurse, I could find lots to criticize in your Jan. 6 editorial, "Hospitals become PR battleground," but I will restrain myself to a single point. Much of the editorial focuses on the requirement that safe staffing ratios be maintained at all times. Near the end of the piece you state: "Hospitals should be able to allow nurses to take breaks without being in violation of the new law."
There are a number of things one could say about this. I'll say two of them. The first is that it is amazing to me that someone who has never done a nurse's work can have such certainty about the needs of nurses and our patients.
The second is in the form of a rhetorical question: Imagine for a moment that the person you love most in the world your spouse perhaps, or your child has just had major surgery. Their pain medication is wearing off, and the pain that was assessed as minor only a few minutes ago has now become agonizing. Are you content to wait until their nurse returns from lunch for their pain to be assessed and treated? Anyone who answers that question honestly knows whether the requirement to meet safe staffing levels at all times is reasonable.
David Welch, Chico
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