Proposal would critically impact emergency departments wait times and decrease access to care

Southcoast Health reiterated today their opposition to mandated nurse staffing ratios, citing the devastating impacts these rigid government requirements would have on their ability to provide emergency care to patients at their three hospitals – Charlton Memorial, in Fall River, St. Luke’s, in New Bedford, and Tobey in Wareham.

Slated to be Question 1 on the ballot this November, these unnecessary and unfounded staffing requirements will dramatically increase emergency room wait times and delay life-saving services in hospitals across the state.

“As an emergency physician, I have tremendous respect for our nursing partners. I want nothing but the best for them, but I do not think Question 1 will improve care, patient safety or nurse satisfaction,” said Brian Tsang, MD, Chair, of the Emergency Department for Charlton Memorial and Tobey hospitals. “Our nurses have expertise in handling the surges in patient volume that happen daily in EDs and know how to allocate resources while continuing to provide excellent, high quality patient care.

“The mandate will replace that expertise with rigid staffing ratios that will increase waiting times in EDs across the state and decrease the efficiency of patient care,” said Jennifer Pope, MD, FACEP, Chair of the Emergency Department for St. Luke’s Hospital.. “Nurses will have to choose between keeping patients in the waiting rooms when they need care and treating those patients and risk incurring major fines from the state.”

The enormous costs and operational hurdles associated with the nurse staffing ballot question will set Southcoast Health back upwards of  $38 million a year, and will translate to severely negative impacts in emergency departments. Wait times in the emergency room will dramatically increase, causing delayed services throughout the hospital – including those that are time-sensitive and life-saving.

There are no exceptions to this mandate, even in the event of an unexpected influx of patients – such as a multi-car crash or large fire. According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, mandated nursing staffing requirements would exacerbate the current nursing shortage, which is currently highest in Psychiatric units (7.8%) and in Emergency Departments (7.5%).

The ballot question would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.

The ballot question is opposed by the American Nurses Association – Massachusetts, Emergency Nurses Association – Massachusetts Chapter, Organization of Nurse Leaders, Infusion Nurses Society, Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing,  Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ Greater Boston Chapter, the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative, the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, and other healthcare and business leaders across the state.