Governor nursing a bad plan
Saturday, December 18, 2004 - GRIEVING families who've lost loved ones to hospital neglect ought to tell their stories to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who recently set aside patient care in favor of hospital profits.
Perhaps firsthand accounts would convince Schwarzenegger to reverse his arbitrary decision to delay by three years nurse-patient ratios that are required by state law in hospitals...
...One of the most researched and discussed legislation undertaken by the Legislature, the Safe Staffing Law, was enacted in 1999, but only went into effect in January 2004.
Hospitals had four years to comply with the law that set the maximum number of patients at five under the care of a single nurse, yet most did nothing. That could explain why hospital profits have grown over the past three years to more than $11 billion statewide.
Unlike the governor's action, this was no capricious decision by lawmakers. The proposal was subjected to four years of exhaustive study, documentation, myriad public hearings and testimony.
It goes without saying that more nurses on the payroll will cost hospitals, but the alternative ought to be unthinkable, let alone facilitated by the governor.
Even the agency that accredits hospitals reported last year that inadequate nurse staffing led to 25 percent of patient deaths, injuries or loss of function reported to them over the past five years.
Many hospitals have already met the new staffing ratios and report better patient outcomes allowing for shorter stays.
Will they now return to the bad, old days of double shifts for nurses and untrained staffers to fill in where necessary? King/Drew Medical Center in South Los Angeles is reaping the whirlwind from just such practices.
And while a nationwide nursing shortage played into hospitals' inability to quickly meet the staffing law, that is no longer a problem.
The law has actually increased the number of available registered nurses in the state. According to the California Nurses Association, the estimated number of nurses needed to meet the new ratios has been exceeded seven times over, so let's lay that shortage myth to rest...