June 6, 2018

Research group: mandated nurse ratios would lead to more hospital closures

Photo/Grant Welker
UMass MemorialHealth Care says budgetary constraints have forced closures of services in Clinton, Leominster and Fitchburg.

A research group advocating against mandated nurse staffing ratios said hospital unit closures like the pediatric unit at UMass Memorial Health Alliance-Clinton Hospital in Leominster will continue if a ballot question is passed.

The ballot question would cost the state's healthcare system $1.31 billion in the first year and $900 million annually after, according to Mass Insight Global Partnership and BW Research Partnership.

The measure, proposed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, would lead to a reduction of services and hospital closures across the state due to the increased personel costs.

Hospitals would be faced with the dilemma of having reduce services or choose certain units to close, or in some cases close all together, Vice President of BW Research Philip Jordan said in a statement.

"Closures, like what is being proposed at Clinton Hospital, will be common as hospitals struggle to remain viable. The Massachusetts nurses' union should read our study and think hard about whether or not these staffing ratios will be effective," Jordan said.

A study by Jordan's firm and Mass Insight Global Partnership, commissioned by the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, found communities outside of Boston and Worcester -- including MetroWest and Western Massachusetts -- were at risk of losing entire facilities.

As a result of service reductions and closures, patients would be subjected to longer wait periods, fewer patient options, unequal care and other public health concerns.

Hospitals will also be forced to hire less-qualified nurses, the study found.

In statements to WBJ, the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care (CESPC) said the study is not reflective of the scenario in Massachusetts.

"This study was commissioned by the Massachusetts Hospital Association, and is fueling a continued effort by hospital executives to demean nurses and endanger patients with statements about the Patient Safety Act that are blatantly, patently untrue," said Katie Norton, spokeswoman for the CESPC. "Meanwhile, dozens of independent, peer-reviewed studies show that patients receive better care and experience fewer preventable complications when safe limits are in place. "

Norton said hospital executives are have been determined to put profits over patients since the legislation was proposed.

"From the very beginning of this safe patient effort, hospital executives have been determined to put profits over patients, and have consistently threatened the care of the most vulnerable patients, claiming that before they ensure safe nurse staffing, they will first cut services for low-income families, children, seniors, as well as close community health centers, maternity wards, and addiction and recovery services, all in the interest of their bottom line," she said.

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