Will Do Nothing to Protect Patients from Dangerous Conditions
New information on the Massachusetts Hospital Association’s Web site—which claims to disclose hospital staffing plans—will do nothing to protect patients or improve deteriorating patient care conditions in the state’s acute care hospitals.
The information provided on the site is of no value to the consumer—at best it is confusing, if not deliberately misleading. There is no way the consumer can make sense of the information provided, and even if they could, there is no way to know if the staffing levels presented are safe and appropriate. Nor is there any guarantee that the staffing level listed in the plan will match the care patients actually receive.
Patients deserve a guaranteed standard of care, they don’t need information on a Web site. The site does make clear the wide variability in staffing across hospitals and clearly demonstrates that patients with the same conditions will receive dramatically different levels of care depending on the hospital they go to. We believe this is unacceptable and it is the main reason nurses in Massachusetts, along with 103 leading health advocacy groups, are supporting legislation, H. 2663, to create a safe limit on the number of patients a nurse is assigned, no matter where patients receive care.
The fact is in most cases, patients have little choice or say about the hospital they visit. In many parts of the state, there is only one hospital available (like on Cape Cod). In an emergency, your ambulance determines where you go for care. In most health plans, hospital choice is also limited. For this reason, it is vital that every patient, wherever they receive care, should have access to a safe standard of care.
The introduction of this information is part of the hospital industry’s glitzy PR campaign to give the illusion of improving quality, while they are actually doing nothing to fix the root cause of the problem—providing a safe limit on the number of patients a nurse is assigned.
The fact is that patients in Massachusetts hospitals are suffering poor care, longer stays and needless complications because too many hospitals are forcing nurses to care for too many patients at once. The Department of Public Health last summer reported a 60 percent increase in patient complaints, injuries and medication errors for Massachusetts hospitals over the last five years. A survey of past patients in Massachusetts hospitals conducted last March found that 1 in 4 reported their safety was compromised due to their nurse having too many patients to care for. Nurses believe patients deserve better.
The daycare industry doesn’t have a Web site where parents can find the child-to-caregiver ratio at different daycare centers. It’s not necessary because there is a good law in place that requires a safe staffing standard for all daycare providers. Patients in hospitals deserve the same type of safety standard.
As legislators debate the issue, recent reports have shown that the hospital industry has earned nearly a billion dollars in profits over the last year. Another study just published in the journal Health Affairs shows that an investment in safe staffing limits will pay for itself in lives saved, shorter stays and millions of dollars in savings from the prevention of negative patient outcomes.
The MHA Web site is: www.patientsfirstma.org