By Gordon Rupert
Question 1 holds overly rigid limits on nurse numbers, which will result in a decrease of patients admitted. It will drive up hospital prices, and fails to take into account the demands of smaller, often rural, hospitals.
The rigid limits on nurses placed in the bill, regardless of departmental separations, doesn’t account for the fact that patient numbers and needs may change dependent upon specific situations.
This is going to directly affect the number of people who are seen in a span of time simply due to the fact they cannot be legally helped by a nurse at their patient limit.
In fact, Boston Medical Center estimated that if question 1 is passed, up to 62 medical-surgery beds would have to be closed, and the hospital would have to decrease the number of patients helped at emergency rooms by over 100 each day.
An obvious answer to this would be to simply hire more nurses. The unaccounted-for problem that this would create is the massive financial cost, which would most likely be pushed onto the average person through increasing already high costs.
Beyond that, in a study conducted on behalf of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Massachusetts’ largest nursing organization, placed the number of new nurses needed to be hired between 539 and 1,617.
According to a study by the Massachusetts Health Commission, updated Oct. 15, the estimated costs of passing question 1 will “conservatively” be $949 million. Additionally, new nurse hires would have to increase by approximately 3,101 to accommodate the change.
While it may be easily argued that large hospitals will be able to support this additional financial cost, there is no thought put towards rural hospitals or those servicing low-income areas, where such a strain might remove one of the few avenues for local treatment.
There is only one other state that has laws regarding safe patient limits – California. The key difference here is that California conducted a gradual change over five years, while the Massachusetts bill would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.
Furthermore, while nurse staffing did increase in California, there is little evidence as to the impact this has made overall in California, as few studies have been conducted and they sometimes conflict with one another, according to Boston Magazine.
Regardless of the results of California’s implementation of the law, the study by the Massachusetts Health Commission found that Massachusetts already performs better on five out of the six “nursing-sensitive quality measures” that had been included in the report.
These reasons will directly affect the average person in many of the negative ways stated, and give a massive industry another reason to remove smaller competitors, all while providing an ethical and legal argument to improve their bottom line.