News & Events

House Passes Landmark Bill on RN Staffing and Patient Safety in Massachusetts Hospitals

Measure Calls for Safe Limits on Nurses’ Patient Assignments, Prohibits Mandatory Overtime, and Includes Initiatives to Increase Nursing Faculty & Nursing Scholarship.

Compare how your representative voted in 2006 to 2008.

BOSTON, Mass. – The state House of Representatives voted 119-35 today to approve a landmark bill to guarantee safe RN staffing in all Massachusetts hospitals.  The measure calls upon the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to set safe limits on nurses’ patient assignments, prohibits mandatory overtime, and includes initiatives to increase nursing faculty and nurse recruitment. The law, when enacted, will make Massachusetts only the second state in the nation to set safe staffing limits in hospitals. 

“We applaud the House of Representatives for its overwhelming vote in support of the Patient Safety Act,” said John McCormack, the co-chair of The Coalition to Protect Massachusetts Patients, an alliance of more than 130 of the state’s leading health care and patient advocacy groups. “When enacted, this law will improve the quality of care for all patients in our hospitals and save thousands of lives.”

The “Patient Safety Act” will now move to the Senate for consideration. The bill responds to increased concern over quality care in Massachusetts hospitals, as well as to evidence linking disease and deaths to poor patient oversight caused by nurses being forced to care for too many patients at one time. In recent years, medical errors and hospital-acquired infections have soared. Numerous studies link the rise in hospital-acquired infections and other medical complications to understaffing of nurses. Most recently, a report published in the July issue of the journal Medical Care found that safe RN staffing levels could reduce hospital acquired infections by 68 percent.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts hospital industry continues to fight the bill at a time when hospital-acquired infections and medical errors are sharply on the rise.   The Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, to which Massachusetts hospitals belong, reports that 2,000 people—or six people per day—are dying in Massachusetts because of preventable medical errors every year.

In May 2006, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the same version of The Patient Safety Act, but the bill was not taken up by the Senate. The bill is co-sponsored by State Representative Christine Canavan (D-Brockton) and State Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton).  “The time has come to pass this law and to protect the patients of the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Canavan.  “I am so pleased that my colleagues have recognized the merits of this bill. Let’s make this the year we finally reach the Governor’s desk!”

“The Massachusetts Nurses Association commends the House for their courageous vote to support the Patient Safety Act,” said Beth Piknick, president of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “This bill is about patient safety. We want to thank the legislature for recognizing the need to improve patient safety for all our citizens, and we urge the Senate to vote to support the Patient Safety Act as well. Every day we wait for this bill to pass, patients are suffering, and patients are needlessly dying due to lack of appropriate nursing care.”

Key components of the bill include the following:

  • The bill directs the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to develop and implement staffing standards and enforceable limits on the number of hospital patients assigned to a registered nurse at any one time

  • The staffing standards would be developed within 12 months of the bill’s passage and be based on scientific research on nurse staffing levels, patient outcomes, expert testimony, and standards of practice for each specialty area.

  • The bill calls for the safe staffing limits to be implemented in all teaching hospitals by 2009, with implementation in all community hospitals by 2011.

  • The bill allows DPH to grant waivers to hospitals in financial distress.

  • The bill provides flexibility in staffing and accounts for patients who require more care. Once established, the staffing levels will be adjusted up or down based on patients needs using a standardized, DPH-approved system for measuring patient needs.

  • The Act will reduce errors caused by fatigue and overwork by prohibiting hospitals from forcing nurses into mandatory overtime.  It will also prevent hospital administrators from moving nurses into unfamiliar assignments without proper orientation.

  • The Act prevents the reduction of support services, including services provided by licensed practical nurses, aides, and technicians.

  • The bill establishes a number of nurse recruitment initiatives—sought by the hospital industry and supported by the Coalition—to increase the supply of nurses by providing nursing scholarships and mentorship programs, as well as support for increases in nursing faculty to educate new nurses.  It also  creates refresher programs to assist nurses who want to return to practice at the hospital bedside.  A survey of Massachusetts nurses found that more than 65 percent of those not practicing in hospitals would be likely to return if a law providing safe limits was passed.   In California, where similar limits have been in place for three years, 80,000 nurses have returned to the bedside, according to the California Board of Nursing.

  • The bill establishes strong consumer protections for safe RN staffing, including a prominent posting of the daily RN staffing standards in each unit.

To date, 130 of the state’s leading health care and patient advocacy groups have endorsed the Patient Safety Act and have joined forces to push for its passage in both the House and Senate. Recent voter surveys indicate that more than 80 percent of the public supports establishing safe staffing limits.

How the House Voted on Safe Staffing







Aguiar, Kevin

22 yes new 617.722.2140 Fall River

Alecia, Geraldo

33 yes new 617.722.2060 Charlton

Allen, Willie-Mae

443 yes new 617.722.2460 Boston

Atkins, Cory

472 yes yes 617.722.2013 Concord

Atsalis, Demetrius J.

26 no yes 617.722.2080 Barnstable

Ayers, Bruce

167 yes yes 617.722.2230 Quincy

Balser, Ruth B.

33 yes yes 617.722.2060 Newton

Barros, Fred Jay

542 no new 617.722.2487 Mansfield

Basile,Carlo P.

26 yes new 617.722.2080 E. Boston

Binienda, John J.

34 yes yes 617.722.2320 Worcester

Bosley, Daniel E.

42 no yes 617.722.2370 North Adams

Bradley, Garrett J.

443 yes yes 617.722.2460 Hingham

Brownsberg, William

22 yes new 617.722.2140 Belmont

Cabral, Antonio F. D.

22 yes yes 617.722.2140 New Bedford

Callahan, Jennifer M.

130 yes yes 617.722.2130 Sutton

Calter, Thomas

237 yes new 617.722.2305 Kingston

Campbell, Linda Dean

33 yes new 617.722.2810 Metuen

Canavan, Christine E.

122 yes yes 617.722.2006 Brockton

Canessa, Stephen R.

443 yes yes 617.722.2460 Lakeville/NB

Casey, Paul C.

238 no no 617.722.2380 Winchester

Clark, Katherine

134 yes new 617.722.2400 Melrose

Coakley-Rivera, Cheryl A.

146 yes yes 617.722.2011 Springfield

Conroy, Thomas

443 no new 617.722.2460 Wayland

Costello, Michael A.

167 yes yes 617.722.2230 Newburyport

Creedon, Geraldine

473G x yes 617.722.2070 Brockton

Curran, Sean

473B yes yes 617.722.2263 Springfield

D’Amico, Steve

39 yes new 617.722.2014 Seekonk

DeLeo, Robert A.

243 yes yes 617.722.2990 Winthrop

deMacedo, Viriato Manuel

124 no no 617.722.2100 Plymouth

Dempsey, Brian S.

473B yes yes 617.722.2263 Haverhill

DiMasi, Salvatore F.

356 yes yes 617.722.2500 Boston

DiNatale, Stephen

443 yes new 617.722.2460 Fitchburg

Donato, Paul J.

185 yes x 617.722.2960 Medford

Donelan, Christopher J.

167 no yes 617.722.2230 Orange

Driscoll, Joseph

136 yes yes 617.722.2396 Braintree

Ehrlich, Lori

540 yes new 617.722.2090 Marblehead

Eldridge, James B.

33 yes yes 617.722.2060 Acton

Evangelidis, Lewis G.

473B no yes 617.722.2263 Holden

Fagan, James

163 yes yes 617.722.2040 Taunton

Fallon, Christopher G.

236 yes yes 617.722.2430 Malden

Falzone, Mark V.

146 yes yes 617.722.2575 Saugus

Fennell, Robert

155 yes yes 617.722.2400 Lynn

Fernandes, Jeffrey

43 no new 617.722.2030 Milford

Finegold, Barry R.

136 no no 617.722.2396 Andover

Flannagan, Jennifer L.

163 yes yes 617.722.2040 Leominster

Flynn, David L.

466 yes yes 617.722.2017 Bridgewater

Forry, Linda Dorcena

236 yes yes 617.722.2430 Boston

Fox, Gloria L.

167 yes yes 617.722.2810 Boston

Fresolo, John P.

156 yes yes 617.722.2240 Worcester

Frost, Paul K.

542 yes yes 617.722.2489 Auburn

Galvin, William C.

167 yes yes 617.722.2230 Canton

Garballey, Sean

134 yes new 617.722.2400 Arligton

Garry, Colleen M.

238 no no 617.722.2380 Dracut

Gifford, Susan W.

540 no yes 617.722.2090 Wareham

Gobi, Anne M.

473F yes yes 617.722.2210 Spencer

Golden, Thomas A., Jr.

20 yes yes 617.722.2410 Lowell

Grant, Mary E.

254 yes yes 617.722.2220 Beverly

Greene, William G., Jr.

477 yes yes 617.722.2210 Billerica

Guyer, Denis E.

134 no yes 617.722.2460 Dalton

Haddad, Patricia A. 

473G yes yes 617.722.2070 Somerset

Hall, Geoffrey D.

146 yes yes 617.722.2575 Westford

Hargraves, Robert S.

237 yes yes 617.722.2305 Groton

Harkins, Lida E.

343 yes yes 617.722.2300 Needham

Hill, Bradford

542 yes yes 617.722.2489 Ipswich

Honan, Kevin G.

38 yes yes 617.722.2470 Boston

Humason, Donald F.,Jr.

542 no no 617.722.2803 Westfield

Hynes, Frank M.

489 yes yes 617.722.2552 Marshfield

Jones, Bradley H., Jr.

124 no no 617.722.2100 North Reading

Kafka, Louis L.

237 yes yes 617.722.2305 Stoughton

Kane, Michael F.

473B yes yes 617.722.2263 Holyoke

Kaprielian, Rachel

479 yes yes 617.722.2520 Watertown

Kaufman, Jay R.

156 yes yes 617.722.2240 Lexington

Keenan, John, D.

136 no yes 617.722.2396 Salem

Kennedy, Thomas P.

277 x yes 617.722.2012 Brockton

Khan, Kay

146 no x 617.722.2011 Newton

Kocot, Peter V.

473F yes yes 617.722.2210 Northampton

Koczera, Robert M.

448 yes yes 617.722.2582 New Bedford

Koutoujian, Peter J.

130 yes yes 617.722.2130 Waltham

Kujawski, Paul

466 yes yes 617.722.2017 Webster

Kulik, Stephen

236 yes yes 617.722.2430 Worthington

Lantigua, William

489 no no 617.722.2810 Lawrence

Lepper, John A.

128 no no 617.722.2100 Attleboro

Linsky, David P.

275 yes yes 617.722.2676 Natick

L’Italien, Barbara A.

26 yes yes 617.722.2080 Andover

Loscocco, Paul J.

254 yes yes 617.722.2220 Holliston

Malia, Elizabeth A.

33 yes yes 617.722.2060 Boston

Mariano, Ronald

254 yes yes 617.722.2220 Quincy

McCarthy, Allen

130 yes new 617.722.2130 East Bridgewater

McMurtry, Paul

443 yes new 617.722.2460 Dedham

Miceli, James R.

448 no yes 617.722.2582 Wilmington

Moran, Michael

544 yes yes 617.722.2637 Boston

Murphy, Charles A.

466 no no 617.722.2017 Burlington

Murphy, James M.

136 yes yes 617.722.2396 Weymouth

Murphy, Kevin J.

472 yes yes 617.722.2013 Lowell

Nangle, David M.

527A yes yes 617.722.2020 Lowell

Natale, Patrick M.

167 no yes 617.722.2810 Woburn

Naughton, Harold P., Jr.

472 yes yes 617.722.2013 Clinton

Nyman, Robert J.

527A yes yes 617.722.2020 Hanover

O’Day, James J.

39 yes new 617.722.2014 West Boylston

O’Flaherty, Eugene L.

136 yes yes 617.722.2396 Chelsea

Patrick, Matthew

540 yes yes 617.722.2090 Falmouth

Peake, Sarah

473F yes new 617.722.2210 Provincetown

Pedone, Vincent A.

540 yes yes 617.722.2090 Worcester

Peisch, Alice H.

167 yes yes 617.722.2230 Wellesey

Perry, Jeffrey D.

136 no no 617.722.2396 Sandwich

Peterson, George N., Jr.

124 no no 617.722.2100 Grafton

Petrolati, Thomas M.

234 yes yes 617.722.2255 Ludlow

Pignatelli, William Smitty

448 no no 617.722.2582 Lenox

Poirier, Elizabeth A.

542 no no 617.722.2976 North Attleboro

Polito, Karyn E.

167 no yes 617.722.2230 Shrewsbury

Provost, Denise

167 yes x 617.722.2810 Somerville

Puppolo, Angelo

146 yes new 617.722.2011 Springfield

Quinn, John F.

527A no yes 617.722.2020 Dartmouth

Reinstein, Kathi-Anne

167 yes yes 617.722.2810 Revere

Rice, Robert L

33 yes yes 617.722.2060 Gardner

Richardson, Pam

448 yes new 617.722.2582 Framingham

Rodrigues, Michael J.

43 no yes 617.722.2030 Westport

Rogeness, Mary S.

124 no no 617.722.2100 Longmeadow

Rogers, John H.

370 yes yes 617.722.2600 Norwood

Ross, Richard J.

237 yes yes 617.722.2305 Wrentham

Rush, Michael F.

544 yes yes 617.722.2637 Boston

Rushing, Byron

481 x yes 617.722.2180 Boston

Sanchez, Jeffrey

42 yes yes 617.722.2370 Boston

Sandlin, Rosemary

134 yes new 617.722.2400 Agawam

Sannicandro, Tom

473F yes yes 617.722.2210 Ashland

Scaccia, Angelo M.

166 x yes 617.722.2692 Boston

Scibak, John W.

39 yes yes 617.722.2014 South Hadley

Sciortino, Carl M., Jr.

175 yes yes 617.722.2018 Medford

Smith, Steven

134 yes new 617.722.2400 Everett

Smizik, Frank Israel

473F yes yes 617.722.2210 Brookline

Smola, Todd M.

156 no no 617.722.2240 Palmer

Speliotis, Theodore C.

146 no yes 617.722.2575 Danvers

Spellane, Robert P.

254 yes yes 617.722.2220 Worcester

Speranzo, Christopher

172 no yes 617.722.2080 Pittsfield

Spiliotis, Joyce A.

236 yes yes 617.722.2430 Peabody

St. Fleur, Marie P.

238 yes yes 617.722.2380 Boston

Stanley, Harriett L.

275 yes yes 617.722.2676 West Newbury

Stanley, Thomas M.

38 x yes 617.722.2470 Waltham

Story, Ellen

146 yes yes 617.722.2575 Amherst

Straus, William M.

34 yes yes 617.722.2320 Mattapoisett

Sullivan, David B.

279 yes yes 617.722.2230 Fall River

Swan, Benjamin

127 yes yes 617.722.2680 Springfield

Timilty, Walter F.

167 yes yes 617.722.2810 Milton

Tobin, A. Stephen

171 yes yes 617.722.2783 Quincy

Toomey, Timothy J., Jr.

166 yes yes 617.722.2692 Cambridge

Torrisi, David M.

39 no yes 617.722.2014 North Andover

Turkington, Eric

195 yes yes 617.722.2015 Falmouth/ Cape Islands

Turner, Cleon H.

540 yes yes 617.722.2090 Dennis

Vallee, James E.

238 yes yes 617.722.2380 Franklin

Verga, Anthony J.

174 yes yes 617.722.2877 Glouchester

Wagner, Joseph F.

134 yes yes 617.722.2400 Chicopee

Wallace, Brian P.

472 yes yes 617.722.2013 Boston

Walrath, Patricia A.

236 yes yes 617.722.2430 Stow

Walsh, Martin J.

540 yes yes 617.722.2090 Boston

Walsh, Steven M.

26 yes yes 617.722.2080 Lynn

Walz, Martha M.

443 no no 617.722.2460 Boston

Webster, Daniel K.

542 yes yes 617.722.2487 Hanson

Welch, James T.

43 yes yes 617.722.2030 West Springfield

Wolf, Alice K.

134 yes yes 617.722.2400 Cambridge