Safe Staffing

Deval Patrick’s Statements Regarding Safe Staffing Bill in TV Debate Creates Firestorm Among Frontline Registered Nurses

09.15.2006

RNs and Concerned Voters Flooding Patrick Campaign with Calls

BOSTON, Mass. – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick created a firestorm of outrage and opposition from frontline registered nurses during his appearance at a televised debate Wednesday night, when he made a comment denouncing legislation that would protect patient safety in hospitals by setting a safe limits on the number of patients assigned to a nurses at one time. (See below for transcript.)

“Nurses are up in arms over his comments, and they are not letting him slide on what can only be perceived by nurses as a blatant disregard for patient safety. This is an issue of vital importance to those practicing on the front lines every day who are watching patients suffer needlessly simply because they have too many patients to care,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, a pediatric staff nurse at Cambridge Health Alliance and vice president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The MNA is one of 106 leading health care and consumer groups that have been advocating for passage of the legislation.

“Our phones have not stopped ringing with calls from hundreds of furious nurses who are trying to understand why Patrick, whose campaign is based on a theme of serving people, would use a televised debate to express a position that shows such disrespect for nurses working on the frontline's of patient care,” Kelly-Williams said. “The message to the Patrick campaign from nurses and from our organizations is that nurses cannot and will not support a candidate who doesn’t support reasonable legislation to set safe patient limits.”

The Massachusetts Nurses Association, the largest health care union and the professional association for all RNs in the Commonwealth, has not officially endorsed any candidate for Governor in the primary election.

“We have a diverse membership that had split its support among all three candidates and thus, we were unable to reach a consensus for a strong endorsement in the primary,” Kelly-Williams explained. “Our plan was to wait for the general election. We did so because all three Democratic candidates, including Patrick, had the opportunity to meet with our board of directors to review and discuss a compromise version of the safe staffing bill that Mr. Patrick led us to believe was a reasonable solution. Mr. Patrick’s comments at the debate made it clear to us where he stands. He stands firmly on the side of the corporate special interests that are harming patients and nurses and is standing in opposition to those actually delivering the care.”

The formal 2005-2006 state legislative session ended with the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passing the compromise safe RN staffing bill 133-20.

The bill would have directed the state’s professional public health experts to develop a regulatory process to set standards and limits on the number of patients a nurse is assigned at one time.

Transcript of Deval Patrick’s Comments
Regarding Safe RN Staffing Bill
During Televised Debate on 9/13/06

Gabrieli’s Question:

What I’d like to know from both of you is where is it in the positions that the Democratic party takes in the state, where specifically do you disagree with our party?

Patrick’s Answer:

Well I think, I don’t know if it is the party issue or not, but certainly most of the party imminence is against Cape Wind and I’m for it.

I think there are issues around nurse staffing ratios, the proposed bill that I think is, is something very hard to for me to imagine actually legislating.