August 16, 2018

Mayor of Gardner, five others speaking against nurse staffing ballot question

A bipartisan group of six mayors is asking their counterparts across the state to oppose a nurse staffing question on November's ballot, saying they're concerned about its impact on local hospital finances.

Mayors Gail Infurna of Melrose, Paul Heroux of Attleboro, Robert Hedlund of Weymouth, Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, Donna Holaday of Newburyport and Mark Hawke of Gardner wrote in a letter Wednesday that the proposal to mandate minimum nurse staffing levels would come with a "staggering price tag" that would "force some of our most vulnerable community hospitals to close" and strain municipal services.

"To underscore the negative impact on our municipal operations, consider what would happen if an emergency department reaches its full legal allowance of patients for the number of nurses on duty," the letter said.

"Under the new law, a hospital would not be able to admit any more patients, forcing walks-ins and ambulances to search for another hospital that could be more than 10-20 miles away; wasting valuable time in life-and-death situations," they added. "For communities with municipal ambulance services, this will be an added financial and resource burden for our public safety officials."

Pointing to a recent study published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, the backers of Question 1 have said that excessive patient assignments and lower staffing levels in emergency departments are detrimental to patient care, leading to longer wait times and an increased likelihood patients will leave without being seen.

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