Holyoke Medical Center today reiterated their opposition to mandated nurse staffing ratios, citing the devastating impacts these rigid government requirements would have on their ability to provide emergency care to patients. Slated to be Question 1 on the ballot this November, these unnecessary and unfounded staffing requirements will dramatically increase emergency room wait times and delay life-saving services in hospitals across the state.
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“Our emergency department currently experiences an annual volume of more than 45,000 visits,” said Kelly F. Marcroft, RN, MSN, CEN, Holyoke Medical Center Director of Emergency Services. “We treat each of those cases with personalized attention and ensure quality care is provided, and this proposal will adversely impact that ability.”
The enormous costs and operational hurdles associated with the nurse staffing ballot question will set Holyoke Medical Center back $5.8 million, but all hospitals within the state will see severely negative impacts in emergency departments. Wait times in the emergency room will dramatically increase, causing delayed services throughout the hospital – including those that are time-sensitive and life-saving. Holyoke Medical Center is confident that Question 1 will cause them to treat at least 36 fewer patients in their emergency department per day.
There are no exceptions to this mandate without a declared "public health emergency," which has only been invoked in Massachusetts four times since 1970. Even in the event of an unexpected influx of patients – such as a multi-car crash or large fire – the mandated ratios would need to be maintained. According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, mandated nursing staffing requirements would exacerbate the current nursing shortage, which is currently highest in Psychiatric units and in Emergency Departments.
The ballot question would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times.
“Question 1 is worrisome for local emergency departments like ours. It’s not fair to place this rule on emergency nurses and I am actually scared for patient safety. My biggest concern is having all the nurses be at the maximum ratio when a critical case enters the ER,” said Melanie Currie, MD, HMC Emergency Department Physician. “The nurses should not be presented with having to choose between patient care and huge financial burdens on the hospital. I trust the team I work with and know our nurses are well equipped to handle the fluctuating demands our community presents. It is not fair to have limits placed on the nurses in this blanket fashion. I encourage voters to think about how you would feel if you were the patient entering the emergency room. How would you want to be treated if this rule was in place? I encourage you to vote no.”
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.