Judge tells hospitals: Raise nurse staff ratio

  1. http://wJudge tells hospitals: Raise nurse staff ratioww.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/12512270p-13367758c.html

    Judge tells hospitals: Raise nurse staff ratio

    Union hails the ruling as a blow to governor; state vows to appeal.

    By Clea Benson and Lisa Rapaport -- Bee Staff Writers
    Published 2:15 am PST Saturday, March 5, 2005

    California hospitals must have one nurse on duty for every five patients starting immediately, a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled Friday. The ruling handed a victory to nurses, who Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger once said were angry because he was "always kicking their butts."

    After hearing arguments from both sides in court, Judge Judy Holzer Hersher rejected the governor's argument that the new staffing ratios could cause a financial hardship for hospitals forced to hire during a nursing shortage.
    The California Nurses Association, the 60,000-member union that sued when Schwarzenegger blocked the new staffing rules, said the ruling meant decreased nursing workloads could go into effect as soon as Monday....

    ...But Schwarzenegger administration officials vowed to appeal Holzer Hersher's decision as soon as possible. They also said it would take as long as 10 days for the new ratios to go into effect....

    ...Officials at Sacramento-area hospitals said they already have at least five nurses on duty for each patient in general medical wards and would not have to change their staffing to comply with the ruling....

    ...California became the first state to mandate nurse-to-patient ratios in January 2004 when it enacted the requirement that hospitals must have one nurse on duty for every six patients. Under the regulations crafted by then-Gov. Gray Davis and blocked by Schwarzenegger, that was scheduled to drop to one nurse for every five patients on Jan. 1 of this year.

    Holzer Hersher noted that the Department of Health Services under Schwarzenegger was contradicting its own arguments - made when Davis was governor - that studies showed the one-to-five ratio was the absolute minimum necessary to keep patients safe.

    When Davis was governor, health officials said the one-to-six ratio was a temporary compromise to give hospitals more time to ramp up their staffing levels.

    CNA members have been protesting at Schwarzenegger's public appearances with extra vigor since he called them "special interests" during a speech in November....

    ...James Eggleston, the CNA's lawyer, said the group would make the same argument that Holzer Hersher accepted: that Schwarzenegger was ignoring the Legislature's intent that patient safety, not hospital finances, should govern mandatory nursing workloads...
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