News & Events

Statement of Karen Higgins, RN, MNA President

UMass Report Offers Nothing New Draws Positions Unsupported by Its Own Data

CANTON, Mass.—A report on competing versions of legislation to deal with the patient safety crisis in Massachusetts’ hospitals offers no new information and draws positions not supported by the evidence-based research it presents.

The report, prepared by UMass Medical School at the request of Senator Richard Moore, the lead sponsor of the hospital industry bill, presents previously reported data that confirms the clear relationship between registered nurse-to-patient ratios and the safety of patient care. Yet the report, like Sen. Moore, advocates the hospital industry’s position of maintaining the dangerous status quo which sets no limit on the number of patients a nurse must care for at one time. This is at a time when all parties concede the current conditions are unacceptable. The hospital industry approach is akin to proposing highway safety by having voluntary, self-selected speed limits.

As supporters of regulating minimum RN-to-patient ratios, we have previously suggested there are elements of both bills that have many potential benefits. But without a limit on the number of patients a nurse must care for at one time, patient care will continue to deteriorate. The only bill that accomplishes this is H. 2663, co-sponsored by 106 legislators and 91 health care and consumer advocacy organizations representing the Coalition to Protect Massachusetts Patients.

In fact, the most recent study on the issue of RN-to-patient ratios published in the Journal Medical Care, a respected, peer reviewed journal, found that implementing ratios similar to those proposed by H. 2663 is a cost effective safety measure that could save thousands of lives and is less costly than a number of other basic safety interventions currently common in hospitals, including the cost of conducting PAP tests for cervical cancer and clot-busting medications to treat heart attacks.