AS SURGE LOOMS, CALIFORNIA NURSES UNION SEIU 121RN CAUTIONS GOVERNOR AGAINST SUSPENDING NURSE TO PATIENT RATIOS
Nurses worry about negative outcomes of Governor’s plan to temporarily release hospitals from long-standing safe staffing requirements limiting nurse-to-patient ratios.
Pasadena, CA - The Service Employees International Union Local 121RN (SEIU 121RN) released the following statement in anticipation of an announcement by Governor Gavin Newsom that the state will soon issue waivers to release hospitals from following California’s nurse-to-patient ratios. The following statement may be attributed to Rosanna Mendez, Executive Director, SEIU 121RN:
“California’s nurses have made enormous sacrifices to keep our patients safe and hospitals operating throughout the pandemic. As we face yet another influx of critical patients in the coming weeks, we understand that hard decisions must be made to prevent our hospitals from being overrun. But placing an even greater burden on nurses’ backs by releasing hospitals from following safe staffing requirements will come at a great cost. Allowing hospitals to force a greater patient load on nurses will exacerbate the severe burnout so many already endure. It will also have a negative impact on patient safety, by reducing the time nurses can give in bedside care. We saw these negative outcomes when the same plan was implemented to deal with surges last year.
We cannot support program flexibility waivers that jeopardize patient safety and place nurse licenses at risk. Forcing full responsibility on nurses experiencing burn-out and emotional exhaustion by giving them more patients than they can safely care for is not the answer. Patients will suffer and nurses will continue to leave the bedside. Hospital administrators have behaved irresponsibly in failing to plan for emergency situations, by refusing to schedule sufficient support staff to help nurses do their jobs for patients and by lobbying for a free pass to bend the law when they have other options. They refuse to implement alternatives because it requires reinvesting some of their unprecedented pandemic profits into patients—and those who care for them.
California is the only state in the country with nurse-to-patient ratio regulations for every acute care hospital unit, created by landmark legislation. For nearly two decades, this law has kept California hospital patients safe, by mandating the maximum number of patients that a hospital nurse can safely care for. While we understand that the Governor’s plan is designed to deal with the onslaught of patients that the Omicron variant is causing, we believe that releasing hospitals from following this important mandate is not the right approach. Governor Newsom should listen to the bedside nurses who will bear the burden of this rule change, not hospital administrators.
If nurse-to-patient ratios are going to be waived regardless of negative outcomes, it should not be done without an accountability mechanism for hospital administrators, restrictions that mitigate impact on patient care and staff safety, and CDPH must maintain close oversight. ”
SEIU Local 121RN represents registered nurses and other healthcare professionals in California. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety