The Newton-Needham Regional Chamber’s board of directors has voted to oppose a ballot question regulating nurse staffing ratios that is projected to cost more than $1.3 billion in the first year and would require Massachusetts hospitals to hire thousands of new nurses in a matter of weeks.
The ballot question, proposed by a Massachusetts nurses’ union which represents less than a quarter of nurses in the Commonwealth, will go before voters statewide on Nov. 6.The proposal would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, adhere to rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times.
“We respect nurses and the important role they play but this poorly thought-out ballot question would be devastating to our local hospitals, the nurses they employ and their ability to serve the families and small businesses that depend on them,” said Chamber President Greg Reibman.
“It is irresponsible to ignore the potentially dangerous consequences associated with this initiative and irresponsible to make personnel decisions by a statewide referendum.”
The chamber’s board unanimously voted, with two abstentions, to oppose the measure after hearing presentations from both the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the Massachusetts Hospital Association. The board includes representatives from Newton-Wellesley Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Needham and its membership includes numerous eldercare centers, rehabilitation facilities, doctor’s offices and other health care providers.
The Greater Boston Chamber, Worcester Regional Chamber, South Shore Chamber, North Shore Chamber, Cape Cod Chamber, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Business Roundtable and dozens of other business associations also oppose the ballot measure.
“I applaud the Newton-Needham Chamber for joining the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety and opposing the Nurse Staffing Ratio ballot initiative,” said Kevin Whitney, RN, DNP, Chief Nursing Officer at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.“Nurse staffing is extremely complex and staffing needs can change quickly. It is essential that decisions related to nurse staffing be made collaboratively by those closest to the patient—direct care nurses and nurse leaders—in support of the highest quality care and experience.”
The RN staffing limits proposed in the ballot are not practical and more importantly, if passed, would have long-term, devastating effects on patient care including limiting access, Whitney added.
This measure is projected to cost the Massachusetts healthcare system more than $1.3 billion in the first year, and more than $900 million each year thereafter, according to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners. Hospitals will be forced to cut vital health programs, such as cancer screenings, opioid treatments, mental health services, early childhood intervention, domestic violence programs and pre- or post-natal care.
The proposal also does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.
“There are no scientific studies or reports that demonstrate the effectiveness of government mandated, one-size-fits-all nurse staffing ratio for improving quality of care, patient outcomes or professional nursing practice," said Donna Glynn, President of the American Nurses Association and a Nurse Scientist for the VA Boston Healthcare System. “In fact, no studies evaluating nurse staffing ratios reported a magic number as the single factor to affect patient outcomes or job satisfaction. This ballot question is ignoring scientific fact around what is best for nursing practice, decision making and quality patient care.”