December 13, 2017

High health ranking triggers sharp words over nurse staffing proposal

The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety launched last week in opposition of a 2018 ballot question backed by Bay State nurses that would mandate nurse staffing ratios in hospitals. A new ranking issued this week stoked their argument, as Massachusetts was deemed the healthiest U.S. state.

As nurses seek to convince voters that patient safety is at risk without nurse staffing mandates, opponents of their proposed 2018 ballot question are pointing to new rankings that determined Massachusetts is the healthiest state in the nation.

Massachusetts on Tuesday vaulted past Hawaii in America's Health Rankings, produced by the United Health Foundation and American Public Health Association. The report is based on 35 metrics and Massachusetts scored high in its percentage of uninsured people, low obesity rate, and high vaccination rate.

Hospital officials and other opponents of nurse staffing mandates, organized as the Coalition to Protect Patient Care, said the healthiest-in-the-nation status is "a badge we should wear with great pride."

"Our system, however, is fragile, and adverse impacts from the proposed nurse staffing ballot question in 2018, can easily put patient health and safety at risk," coalition spokesman Conor Yunits said in a statement. "The rigid, costly nurse staffing measure will drive up consumer healthcare costs without increasing the quality of care, and will lead to the closure of financially vulnerable community hospitals. We must not let politics stop our state's progress or jeopardize our nationally valued ability to provide affordable, quality healthcare."

Nurses say patient safety is in jeopardy in Massachusetts due to inadequate nurse staffing. "This ranking, while positive for Massachusetts wellness, reflects very little as it relates to hospital care, which is what the Patient Safety Act addresses," Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care spokeswoman Kate Norton said on behalf of the group promoting the nurse staffing proposal.

To a larger extent than other states, Norton said, hospital readmissions and longer hospital stays are leading to higher health care costs. "To cite this report as validation for a political point is irresponsible, dishonest and misleading to the public, and it undercuts the incredible work of nurses in hospital settings, large and small," she added.


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