Staffing questions raises concerns with Southeastern Mass Hospitals


(WPRI) – This November, Massachusetts voters will decide if hospitals and other healthcare facilities should implement a nurse to patient staffing ratio. 

Question One asks voters to approve limiting how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other healthcare facilities. 

The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care

For example, the proposed law calls for three patients per nurse in step-down units, and four in most other areas the hospital. 

More specifics for other areas of the hospital can be found in the ballot question

If passed, fines would also be imposed for anyone found in violation of staffing ratios. 

Those in violation could face up to $25,000 dollars per violation, in addition to up to $25,000 for each day a violation continues. 

As proposed, the law would also prohibit discipline or retaliation against any employee for complying with the patient assignment limits of the law. 

However, the law does note these requirements would be suspended during a state or nationally declared public health emergency.

Southcoast Health, which includes Charlton Memorial Hospital, in Fall River and St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford,  has spoken out against the passage of Question One. 

In a news release, it said in part  “these rigid staffing ratios will devastate community hospitals and behavioral health facilities across Massachusetts.”

The full statement can be found here

If passed, the proposed law would take effect on January 1, 2019.

Massachusetts would be the second state to impose such a measure; California passed a similar law almost 20 years ago. 

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