Mar 30, 2023
New Bill Seeks to Set Nurse Staffing Minimums After Hospital Strikes
(Bloomberg) -- Two US lawmakers proposed legislation that would set minimum staffing ratios in hospitals and establish whistleblower protections for nurses in response to high turn in the wake of the pandemic and a series of recent labor strikes.
Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, also a Democrat, introduced the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act of 2023 on Thursday. It would establish nurse-to-patient ratios that would vary based on hospital departments, and calls for increased Medicare reimbursement to implement the requirements, according to a draft of the legislation.
Schakowsky first introduced staffing-ratio legislation in 2004. While no Republicans are among the 55 co-sponsors at the moment, she said she thinks that will change.
“I feel optimistic that we can get some Republican support and pass this legislation,” Schakowsky said in an interview Thursday. She also said she expects the financial backing “to get this bill over the finish line.”
The bill follows a string of recent strikes across the country protesting what nurses called unsafe staffing levels that put patients in jeopardy, including in New York City in January. Supporters of minimums say the ratios will help lure back nurses who’ve left the field and protect patients. Hospitals have countered that they are costly and deny them needed flexibility, especially after they scrambled to fill vacancies during the pandemic with costly travel nurses. The bill would also create additional training and mentorship programs, which educators say are sorely needed.
Most hospitals would have two years to enact the requirements, with four for rural hospitals The bill also gives nurses the right to refuse assignments they deem dangerous to patients and forbids retaliation. Staffing guidelines would be developed with direct-care nurses.
“Nurses work long hours doing vital work in our health-care system, but too often they’re stretched too thin, caring for too many patients with too little support.,” Brown said in an emailed statement.
(Adds interview with Schakowsky in fourth paragraph)
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