California nurses launch statewide protest against waivers of staffing ratios

Nurses in California plan to protest at nearly 70 hospitals and medical centers Aug. 5 the state's waiver of mandated nurse-patient ratios introduced during the pandemic, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

The California Nurses Association is protesting as part of a national day of action organized by National Nurses United in at least 16 states and the District of Columbia. The union is part of push to pass federal legislation to ensure nurses nationwide have proper personal protective equipment, but California nurses also are protesting their state's waiver of mandated nurse-patient ratios.  

On March 30, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an order waiving enforcement of nurse-patient ratios to respond to the needs of COVID-19 patients. That waiver, which was supposed to be temporary, expired June 30, but hospitals can still request a waiver if they are experiencing a patient surge or staffing shortage related to the pandemic, the Valley Tribune reports.

The nurse-patient ratios reduce healthcare errors and nurse burnout and save lives, the California nurses said, and they are concerned that ignoring them will overload nurses in noncritical departments, according to the Valley Tribune

But the California Hospital Association said facilities need flexibility during the pandemic to care for a sudden and unpredictable patient surge, and the ratio law does not provide that flexibility, resulting in a need for the waivers.

"The surge of COVID-19 patients can be intense, sudden and unpredictable," Jan Emerson-Shea, spokesperson for the California Hospitals Association, said in a statement to Becker's. "Hospitals must have the flexibility they need to care for both COVID-positive patients and those people seeking care for unrelated reasons. The emergency waivers place the hour-by-hour staffing decisions that must be made during this major public health crisis in the hands of on-site clinical professionals who are operating in unprecedented conditions."

As of Aug. 5, California confirmed 527,074 COVID-19 cases, more than any other state, including New York, Florida and Texas, according to Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 dashboard.   



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