Nurse Staffing Impasse?

This article is more than 13 years old.

A Nurse-Patient Safety bill has cleared the Senate, but substantial differences with the House version will make reaching a resolution difficult. In the Senate bill, hospitals, working with nurses would set their own nurse staffing plans. The House would have the state Department of Public Health establish and enforce nurse to patient ratios. Many lawmakers are hoping House and Senate negotiators reach a compromise that puts the contentious issue to rest. But David Schildmeier with the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) says the union wants the House bill or nothing.

If they don’t have a bill that sets safe limits on patient assignment for nurses, which is what is proven will help them, then no bill is worth it because conditions will continue to deteriorate and no one will be helped.

The MNA is also angry that the Senate voted on the issue while the lead sponsor of the union's bill, Marc Pacheco, is out of the country. Hospital leaders say they compromised in the version that passed the Senate to give the state oversight and authority to intervene if insufficient staffing creates problems in a hospital.

Marita Prater, past president of the Massachusetts Organization of Nurse Executives says the Senate bill gives hospitals flexibility to respond to changing medical and patient needs.

So that we have the opportunity to look at further sci evidence and other future approaches to really ensuring safe, quality care. And that’s the bottom line for the health care team.

The House and Senate typically name members to a conference committee to work out differences between bills that emerge from each chamber. But with 2 weeks left in the session, and 2 different approaches to nurse staffing, this issue may not be resolved this session.

This program aired on July 17, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.