If passed by voters on November 6, ballot initiative Question 1 could have a dramatic effect on the number of patients Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton (BID-Milton) is able to treat.
According to statistics released by the hospital, nurse staffing ratios could result in 28 fewer patients being treated in the Emergency Department (ED) daily and 1,224 fewer patients being admitted on an inpatient basis annually given the current volume of patients at the hospital and present staffing patterns. These numbers represent a 33% reduction in the average number of patients seen in the hospital’s Emergency Department on a typical day during the last year and 16% of all inpatient admissions.
If approved at the polls, Question 1 would impose inflexible nurse staffing ratios on every hospital in Massachusetts regardless of a hospital’s size, location or unique patients’ needs. Currently, nurse and patient assignments are made by nurse managers on the patient floors or in the ED and are based on the number of patients, the severity of a patients’ illness or injury and their current needs.
Last month, the state’s Health Policy Commission found that Question 1 would require the state’s hospitals to hire more than 2,500 registered nurses on top of the current 1,200 unfilled nursing positions currently. Experts predict that a resulting nurse shortage would cause hospitals to reduce the number of staffed beds due to a lack of nurses, leading to longer ED wait times, cancellation of elective surgeries and elimination of hospital services and community programs.
The commission also found that Question 1 would cost up to $900 million annually to implement at hospitals statewide, and that nurse staffing ratios did not appreciably improve nursing quality specific outcomes in California, the only state currently with nurse staffing ratios in its hospitals.
“Question 1 is poor public policy. It sets a bad precedence of government intervention in local hospitals and nursing decisions. It has numerous negative consequences that would greatly harm healthcare here at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton and across the Commonwealth,” said Richard Fernandez, president and CEO of BID-Milton. “The state’s independent Health Policy Commission confirmed that ratios have not improved quality and safety and would create an unprecedented nursing shortage that would greatly harm BID-Milton and other community hospitals as well as nursing homes, visiting nurse agencies, community health centers and inpatient psychiatric and addiction facilities.”
A study conducted by the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems last April estimated that Question 1 would result in the loss of 1,000 behavioral health beds statewide due to a lack of nurses.
The state’s hospitals and more than 70 healthcare organizations, including the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians, the American Nurses Association-Massachusetts and the Emergency Nurses Association-Massachusetts, have all publicly opposed Question 1.