Pennsylvania hospital CEOs at odds over nurse staffing legislation

Two Bethlehem, Pa.-based St. Luke’s University Health Network leaders slammed the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Act in a July 10 op-ed in The Morning Call

The legislation, which would mandate nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals, was passed June 28 by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives despite "intense" lobbying efforts by labor unions, according to the article. The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration. 

"We cannot recall another bill that would be more harmful to our communities, patients and hospitals," wrote Richard Anderson, president and CEO of St. Luke's, and Carol Kuplen, RN, MSN, the system's network chief nursing officer and president of its Bethlehem campus.

Mr. Anderson and Ms. Kuplen's piece was published a day after Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Health System leaders expressed support for Pennsylvania House Bill 106 in a July 9 Penn Live article.

"This bill should be called the Patient Endangerment Act! Pennsylvanians and Lehigh Valley citizens be warned," the St. Luke's hospital leaders wrote. "In our opinion, this will further exacerbate the numerous patient care issues in our healthcare system caused by COVID-19 and an ongoing health care worker shortage."

If the bill passes, they wrote, it will create the need for "significant" staff layoffs which, in turn, will limit available hospital beds, "endangering patients lives …. It is essential our communities understand the negative impact this seriously misguided legislation will have on their care."

Kevin Mahoney, CEO of Penn Health, and Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, founding director of Penn Nursing's center for health outcomes and policy research, strongly disagree with the position taken by the St. Luke's leaders.

"We believe safe staffing standards will help to relieve nurse burnout, improve care for patients and create better work environments to attract and retain dedicated frontline caregivers," wrote Mr. Mahoney and Dr. Aiken. "Pennsylvania should implement evidence-based staffing standard." 

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