CANTON, Mass. — In April 2005, the leadership of the House and Senate established a Special Committee on Nurse Ratio Legislation. This group was charged with reaching a reasonable compromise between two competing pieces of legislation—one filed by the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA) and one by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA)—that attempt to deal with a growing patient safety crisis in Massachusetts hospitals.
As the author of one of the aforementioned pieces of legislation, MNA gladly agreed to participate in this process. We viewed it as an important opportunity for key stakeholders and committed legislators to work together in good faith to achieve a workable compromise.
The release today by Senator Richard Moore of a study by UMass is the latest in a series of events that clearly demonstrates that the process to date has been anything but an attempt at reaching a workable compromise.
- The Special Committee has had just one substantive meeting since it was formed last Spring.
- In direct contravention of both the spirit and the letter of the Special Committee, Sen. Moore commissioned the UMass analysis without so much as informing the other interested parties of the working group. Sen. Moore serves as the lead sponsor and chief proponent of legislation filed by the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA) in opposition to RN-to-patient ratios championed by bedside nurses throughout the Commonwealth. Surely the appropriate approach to such an undertaking would have been to allow all participants to comment on and determine its scope before selecting a truly “independent” entity under whose auspices to conduct the research. None of this happened, yet Senator Moore released the report in question under the official aegis of the Committee.
- Furthermore, UMass Medical School is closely allied with one of the state’s largest hospital networks—the UMass Memorial Health Care system—which includes the UMass Medical Center, UMass-Memorial Hospital, and UMass Marlborough – all MHA affiliates. This connection, along with Senator Moore’s sponsorship of MHA’s legislation, creates a clear conflict of interest, and obviates any claim of objectivity by the study’s authors. Regrettably, the report is a sham, containing glaring inaccuracies, misrepresentations and lacks substantive data collection. It reads as though it was written by the MHA, as, in effect, it was.
The fact is nurses are being assigned a dangerous number of patients by the hospital industry. Patients are suffering lengthier illnesses, complications, and even death as a result. Every respectable analysis of this issue has shown that improving ratios as proposed under H. 2663 will save lives, improve care and do so at minimal cost.
We call on Senator Moore to put aside his biases and to allow the Special Committee to work with us to fashion a genuinely objective study of this critical issue so that his constituents and patients throughout the Commonwealth will get the care they need and deserve.