Say “No” on Question 1

Government-mandated nurse staffing levels are not in the best interest of patients or caregivers

On November 6, Massachusetts residents will be asked to consider a ballot question — Question 1 — that would create government-mandated nurse staffing levels at all hospitals across the Commonwealth.

This political ballot initiative is being driven by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, a union trade association that represents less than 25 percent of the nurses in Massachusetts. The government-mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in all units, at all times and at all hospitals in the Commonwealth would be a disaster for patients, our communities, our hospitals and even our nurses.

I started my career in healthcare as a nurse, and speaking both as a nurse and as a CEO of our region’s health system, I can confidently share with you my concern that this initiative puts the quality of healthcare at tremendous risk.

The proposed mandates would require every hospital to adopt the same rigid, one-size-fits-all ratios of nurses on duty to patients at all times — regardless of the hospital’s size, location or needs of those receiving care.

At the bedside, such a law would take real-time decision-making power away from professional nurses. Their best judgment and ability to make real-time care decisions based on a patient’s immediate needs would be negatively impacted by this misguided legislation. In the current system, nurses and nurse leaders make patient-care assignments based on the ever-changing needs of their patients and the skill-sets of nurses. Question 1 would override the wisdom of experienced nurses in favor of a rigid government mandate.

Question 1 would also limit the services hospitals can provide at any given time if they cannot provide enough nurses to fulfill the ratios. Emergency room wait times could dramatically increase and potentially delay other life-saving services as hospitals scramble to assign and re-assign nurses to fulfill each ratio as the number of patients in each area fluctuates.

From a financial perspective — for patients, employers and health systems — Question 1 would significantly increase costs. Government mandated nurse staffing ratios would put a tremendous financial strain on patients, their employers and our local hospitals, by adding $1 billion annually in costs. These additional costs will cripple community hospitals and even force program closures and possibly even some entire hospitals to close. For Southcoast Health, if passed, this initiative is estimated to add $38 million annually to our already burdened budget.

Massachusetts, including the South Coast, is home to some of the best hospitals, health systems, nurses and providers in the nation. The professional judgment of nurses who manage caregiving teams is one of the reasons our care is the best. If Question 1 passes, unfortunately, that professional judgment would be denied in favor of rigid ratios that would not be in the best interest of patients or caregivers.

Keith A. Hovan,
President & CEO, Southcoast Health

For more information on Question 1, please visit the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety.