Do you have a position on Question 1 on this November’s state-wide ballot, which would place limits on the ratio of patients to nurses in Massachusetts hospitals?
I think it’s accurate to say that hospital nurses are often burdened with too many patients at a time and that this compromises patient care. Having said that, I have some concerns with the law that would be enacted if this ballet question were to pass. In particular:
- I’m worried that the deadline for hospitals bringing themselves into compliance is too soon, and they won’t be able to do it.
- I’m concerned that there are no provisions in the bill for adjusting the limits in the future; I think it’s inadvisable to require action from the legislature to make such adjustments.
- The provision of the law saying that hospitals aren’t allowed to adjust staffing in any other area to hire more nurses seems unreasonable to me. I am not sure it will be financially feasible for hospitals to follow the new law without reducing staffing elsewhere.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on these concerns in particular and about this ballot question in general.
Will’s Answer, updated 10/17/2018
I’m uncomfortable with what I perceive to be a focus on one particular component of staffing. Care in hospitals today is a team process where many professionals are essential.
More generally, I don’t believe in legislating staffing ratios in any industry — the world is just more complicated than that. One could make an argument for particular numbers in any industry, but we need to stay flexible.
Patients per doctor, per orderly, per cafeteria worker? Operators per MBTA train? Rigid staffing ratios do not belong in law. Circumstances vary too much. Technology and conditions change too fast.