Newton-Wellesley Hospital is projecting significant negative impacts on its capability to provide safe, quality care to patients should proposed nurse staffing ratios pass on Nov. 6.
The ballot question would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or the specific needs of their patients, adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios in all patient care areas, at all times. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.
“Every day, our nurses work together planning and adjusting staffing levels in response to fluctuating patient volume and the ever-changing needs of our patients. Countless factors affect staffing decisions, including the severity of a patient’s injury or illness and the experience level of the individual nurse,” says Dr. Michael R. Jaff, President of Newton-Wellesley Hospital. “Our nurses use their clinical knowledge and experience to staff safely for their patients. Question 1 would take these complex, clinical decisions out of the hands of our nurses and put them into the hands of politicians.”
“My job is to make sure that our nurses are getting the resources they need, but my hands will be tied if this question passes and the government takes control of patient care,” says Sandy Muse, RN, Associate Chief Nurse, Newton-Wellesley Hospital. “Every patient has unique needs and nurses need the flexibility to adjust the level of care when needed. Currently, if a patient needs one-to-one care we provide it, and the team comes together to shift the workload in order to maintain patient safety.”
Ballot Question 1 will cost Massachusetts’ health care system $1.3 billion in the first year, and $900 million every year thereafter. This cost will be passed on to hospitals, insurers, employers and ultimately to patients. If passed, Question 1 will cost Newton-Wellesley approximately $16.4 million annually, possibly resulting in bed closures, longer wait times at the Emergency Room and cuts to community health programs, such as cancer screenings, opioid treatments, mental health services and domestic violence programs.
“The health care we provide is second to none, and that is in large part due to our incredible nurses. Our team is committed to appropriate RN staffing and we adjust our staffing plans and levels based on feedback from our empowered nursing staff. Question 1 would drastically impact the amount of care we are able to provide —and not for the better,” said Newton-Wellesley Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Kevin Whitney DNP, RN. “If Question 1 passes, the result will be significant delays in access to care – especially in our Emergency Department. It would be better for our patients if our nurses continued working collaboratively on staffing and not have their experience and expertise dismissed by an inflexible government mandate.”
The ballot question is opposed by the American Nurses Association - Massachusetts, Emergency Nurses Association - Massachusetts Chapter, Organization of Nurse Leaders, Infusion Nurses Society, Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing,Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ Greater Boston Chapter, the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative, the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber, The Waltham Chamber of Commerce and other healthcare and business leaders across the state.
“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.”