State House News Service

Mass. Senate OKs Nurse Staffing Bill

BOSTON — A day after the bill suddenly emerged and cleared the House, the Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that sets nurse staffing ratios in intensive care units within Massachusetts hospitals.

If the bill reaches Gov. Deval Patrick and is signed into law before July 2, the proponents of two proposed ballot questions are expected to drop their campaigns.

One ballot initiative would set nurse staffing ratios in different hospital units, and the other would regulate CEO compensation, annual operating margins and financial asset disclosures of hospitals and other facilities.

Several senators credited Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg for brokering the agreement on the bill, although Sen. Mark Montigny also added that he did not believe the legislation would have materialized without the threat of a potential ballot law.

The bill sets up patient-nurse ratios of one nurse to one patient, or one nurse to two patients, “depending on the stability of the patient as assessed by the acuity tool and by the staff nurses in the unit, including the nurse manager or the nurse manager’s designee when needed to resolve a disagreement.”

The Health Policy Commission would regulate the implementation of the proposed law, including the formulation of the “acuity tool”, the method of public reporting of staffing compliance in hospital ICUs, and the identification of three to five patient safety quality indicators.

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