October 29, 2018
Letter to the editor

To the editor: Question 1 will improve hospital care

WBJ's article, "Labor vs. Administration: Ballot pits nurses against hospitals" quoted a Saint Vincent Hospital spokeswoman saying Question 1 would be devastating for local community health centers, nursing homes, behavioral health treatment and home care. That is incorrect because Question 1 specifically limits the proposed staffing measures to hospitals, and it does not cover rehabilitation or long-term care facilities.

The article notes the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission had concerns the mandate would not result in enough savings to offset its costs. There certainly will be substantial payroll costs. But Question 1 is designed to reduce medical errors, patient and employee injuries, and shorten patient stays. The staffing measures will reduce the costs of those problems.

Healthcare cost savings will result from reducing the high levels of workplace injuries to nurses and reducing patient outcomes such as injuries, readmission shortly after release, or death in the hospital. Following California's implementation of a similar nurse staffing measure, medical errors and patient injuries stopped their steady increases. One study found a 30-percent drop in hospital nurses injuries.

Question 1 was put on the ballot to establish the same benefits here. The hospital industry misrepresents the ballot question language and the decades of research showing the need for patient-to-nurse limits. It's a shame the opposition to Question 1 can't engage in honest dialog. Question 1 will lead to hospital care improvements. That is why I'm voting for it.

Craig Slatin is professor emeritus in the Department of Public Health at UMass Lowell.

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