Research group: Mandated nurse staffing ratios could cause some Massachusetts hospitals to close

A proposed ballot initiative to mandate nurse staffing ratios in Massachusetts hospitals would cost the state's healthcare system billions and lead to reduction of services and hospital closures across the state, according to a study by Mass Insight Global Partnerships and BW Research Partnership commissioned by the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association.

Under the measure, proposed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the staffing ratios would depend on the hospital unit. For example, one nurse would be allowed to care for up to four pediatric patients or five psychiatric patients, according to The Republican.

Supporters of the initiative argue the mandated staffing ratios are necessary to ensure nurses can adequately care for patients. Opponents of the ballot question say requiring hospitals to hire more nurses will negatively affect patient safety. They argue hospitals will be forced to hire nurses with less experience due to the current nursing shortage, according to The Republican.

If implemented, the nurse staffing ratios would cost the state's healthcare system $1.3 billion in the first year and at least $900 million annually thereafter, according to the study. The increase in personnel costs would cause facilities to scale back services, and could lead hospitals in certain regions, including the MetroWest and Western Massachusetts, to close.

"For individuals in these regions, the closure of acute care hospitals will leave them with nowhere else to go and will result in longer wait times, long-distance travel, and emergency room bed shortages," according to the study.

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