Press Release: SB 227—Patients suffer when hospitals break the law

For Immediate Release:
April 10, 2019

CONTACT:
Terry Carter, (805) 312-0024

At their press conference today,
Nurses sound the alarm:

Patients suffer when
hospitals break the law.

Sacramento, CA—Today, Nurses gathered prior to the Senate Health Committee hearing on SB 227 to voice their strong support for the bill, which will mandate unannounced inspections of hospitals with a special focus on adherence to California’s nurse-to-patient ratios as regulated by Title 22. This bill will also levy penalties on hospitals that continue to disregard these regulations. State Senator Connie M. Leyva (D–Chino) introduced SB 227 in February, co-authored by Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago, Rob Bonta, Christy Smith, Sharon Quirk-Silva and Freddie Rodriguez and co-sponsored by SEIU Local 121RN, SEIU California State Council and United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC / UHCP).

California leads the nation in regulations protecting patients and Registered Nurses. The problem is that there’s no enforcement of those regulations. Nurses report that too many California hospitals ignore the laws that set minimum staffing levels in Emergency Rooms, Intensive Care Units, Labor & Delivery Floors and other patient care areas. This endangers patients, is an unnecessary stress on families, and puts nurses’ licenses and livelihoods at risk.

“In our rapidly changing healthcare world, California’s Nurses continue to make patient safety our number one priority, both in our contracts with area hospitals and in these efforts to create a strong enforcement mechanism for existing state regulations,” said SEIU Local 121RN President Gayle Batiste, RN, CNOR at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. “Nurses are determined to stop hospitals from treating these regulations as ‘recommendations’ or ‘guidelines.’ They are not recommendations. They are bare minimums.”

RNs—who refer to SB 227 as the “Stop Repeat Offender Hospitals” bill—say they’re more committed than ever to push against the false narrative and aggressive lobbying that hospital administrators engaged in last year to attack a similar bill. They spread the myth that our hospitals don’t experience unsafe staffing levels. SEIU Local 121RN nurses—like Jennifer, Sally, Mary, Monique, Kathy, Joyce, Alvin and Yolanda—reveal a very different and dangerous reality.

Currently…

  • California leads the nation with its groundbreaking regulations protecting patients and Registered Nurses—but, the enforcement of those regulations is virtually nonexistent, rendering them meaningless in too many hospitals.
  • Unlike long-term care facilities and other healthcare settings, hospitals face no financial penalties for violating staffing ratios.
  • A penalty only kicks in when it’s too late: a violation caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury or death to a patient.
  • If there is no serious injury or death, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) simply requests that hospitals submit a “plan of correction” (which many hospitals copy/paste from their last submitted plan).
  • CDPH testified in 2013 that it does not routinely follow up on hospitals’ plans of corrections.
  • Nurse-to-patient ratio laws have gone two decades without any enforcement mechanism to curb repeat offenders.

“SB 227 will help to improve patient health and safety by ensuring hospitals in California comply with legally mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios,” said Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino). “The stakes for patients are high and, in order to protect them, CDPH must fully enforce existing law. I thank SEIU California, SEIU Local 121RN and UNAC / UHCP for jointly sponsoring SB 227 and working with me to help protect patients.”

“I am a proud coauthor of SB 227,” said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). “With more Californians insured and receiving healthcare than ever before, it is our duty to ensure that healthcare meets high quality standards and that patient safety is prioritized.”

“I have served in the healthcare field for over 35 years as an Emergency Medical Technician, working every day with nurses and staff across my community,” said Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D- Pomona). “I can tell you from experience that the nurse-to-patient ratio is critical to providing quality medical care that protects patients and nurses. As Legislators committed to improving the quality of care across the State, SB 277 is an important step in accomplishing that goal.”

“I’m proud to, again, co-author this important legislation with Senator Leyva. SB 227 will ensure that California’s mandated nurse-to-patient ratios are followed. Our hard-working and highly-skilled nurses are pivotal to maintaining high-quality care for patients,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). “SB 227 will require the state to conduct unannounced inspections to ensure patients are never being put at risk by nurse-to-patient ratios that are below what state law requires.”

“California boasts of a robust healthcare system that serves the most populous state in the nation. Millions of people rely and benefit from services from our healthcare facilities every year,” Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) said. “That’s why it is paramount that our facilities meet the predetermined regulations that ensure patient safety. I salute Senator Connie Leyva’s SB 227 and am proud to coauthor this important piece of legislation, which puts patient safety first.”

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Service Employees International Union, Local 121RN represents more than 9,000 registered nurses and other healthcare professionals at 27 hospitals and facilities in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety.

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