Hospital execs oppose Massachusetts nurse staffing proposition

Executives from several western Massachusetts hospitals voiced their opposition to the Question 1 proposal regarding mandatory staffing ratios that will be on the state's ballot during the November election, according to MassLive.

Here are five things to know:

1. Question 1 calls for nurse staffing ratios for patients. In some cases, nurses would be required to care for six patients, while in other situations, the ratio would be 1-to-1.

2. Several hospital executives from Baystate Health, Mercy Medical Center — both in Springfield, Mass. — Holyoke (Mass.) Medical Center and others argued their case during a meeting with the media Oct. 23. Officials said the proposition would create two significant issues for hospitals statewide: finding enough nurses to abide by the ratios and setting aside the appropriate amount of funding for those nurses. Hospitals across the state may have to cut back in other service areas and pull nurses from nonbedside jobs like care management and nurse education, the report states.

3. While the Massachusetts Nurses Association — a big proponent of the staffing ratios — said the cost of compliance would range from $35 million to $47 million, the Health Policy Commission's estimates are significantly higher, ranging from $676 million to $949 million per year once the rule is fully implemented.

4. Baystate Health President and CEO Mark Keroack, MD, said during the meeting the health system would likely have to spend $40 million during the first year to hire more nurses and comply with the rule. Each successive year, the health system would have to pay $27.5 million, according to a consultant present during the Oct. 23 meeting.

"I think each [Massachusetts hospital] will have to go through gut-wrenching decision about what businesses we need to be in and what businesses we can't be in," Mr. Keroack said.

5. However, proponents of Question 1 said the goal is to ensure each unit in the hospital has an adequate number of nurses and management and to develop an acuity tool and hospital-specific plans about how to meet patients' care needs, according to the report.

To access the full report, click here.

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