Government mandated nurse staffing ratios would cost the hospital $9.5 Million

MelroseWakefield Healthcare today announced the negative impacts mandated nurse staffing ratios would have on their viability and their capability to provide safe, quality care to patients across the region. Slated to be Question 1 on the ballot this November, these rigid staffing ratios will devastate community hospitals and behavioral health facilities across Massachusetts.

“Question 1 will be a crippling financial and operational burden for MelroseWakefield Healthcare,” said Deb Cronin-Waelde, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of clinical operations at MelroseWakefield Healthcare. “It would be detrimental to our profession by taking staffing decisions away from the units and placed in the hands of legislation. It will result in moral distress for nurses. It will not provide the support the proponents expect. This ballot question is going to harm patients in the long run. Community hospitals will close, departments will downsize, and patients and their families will spend hours in emergency rooms waiting for a bed to open up under the legal ratios or they will be turned away from their community hospitals.”

The enormous costs associated with the nurse staffing ballot question will set MelroseWakefield Healthcare back $9.5 million, resulting in a downsize of their Emergency Department capacity by 50 visits per day, bed closures in the medical-surgical units, potential closure of their Special Care Nursery, and major cuts to community health programs.

In order to comply with the massive costs associated with the rigid ratios included in Question 1, patients will be forced to wait for beds to come available if every nurse is at their mandated number of patients. According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, Question 1 will cost Massachusetts’ health care system $1.3 billion in the first year, and $900 million every year thereafter. This cost will be passed on to hospitals, impacting access to care, and increasing emergency room wait times.

The ballot question would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, to adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.

“I am very proud to work at MelroseWakefield because I know that the care we provide is essential to the community “said Linda Auclair, a telemetry nurse at MelroseWakefield Healthcare for 16 years. “If this mandate passes, there will be no way to avoid cutting vital health services and closing beds to meet increased staffing costs. In the end, it’s the patients who will lose out on the top-quality care they need.”

The ballot question is opposed by the American Nurses Association – Massachusetts, Emergency Nurses Association – Massachusetts Chapter, Organization of Nurse Leaders, Infusion Nurses Society, Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing, Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ Greater Boston Chapter, the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative, the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, and other healthcare and business leaders across the state.

“There are no scientific studies or reports that demonstrate the effectiveness of government mandated, one-size-fits-all nurse staffing ratio for improving quality of care, patient outcomes or professional nursing practice.” said Donna Glynn, President of the American Nurses Association and a Nurse Scientist for the VA Boston Healthcare System. “In fact, no studies evaluating nurse staffing ratios reported a magic number as the single factor to affect patient outcomes or job satisfaction. This ballot question is ignoring scientific fact around what is best for nursing practice, decision making and quality patient care.”