130 hospital leaders lobby against nurse-patient ratios in Michigan

About 130 Michigan hospital leaders gathered to lobby against legislation that would require hospitals to meet nurse-patient staffing ratios, limit mandatory nurse overtime and require transparency about staffing, the Detroit Free Press reported Sept. 14.

Leaders recognize the bill was well-intended, but worry the demand to increase staffing would be "not just a difficult task, it is an impossible task," Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, told the Press. He noted that hospitals are trying to fill roughly 8,500 nursing jobs and the legislation would require them to fill more than 13,000. The legislation could mean hospitals turn away patients when staffing ratios are too high to avoid hefty fines.

"We do not have enough nurses within the state of Michigan," Shannon Striebich, chair of the MHA board of trustees and ministry president and senior vice president of operations at Livonia-based Trinity Health Michigan, told the news outlet. She said the one-size-fits-all approach doesn't give hospitals the flexibility they need.

"If [the legislation is] passed, there is a real and significant risk of bed closures," she said. "Of extended wait times in emergency departments, of ERs having to go on diversion status, and this does not improve quality and access to care across the state of Michigan."

The MHA estimates 5,100 hospital beds would close if the legislation is enacted and staffing levels remain the same.

The Michigan Nurses Association, which represents about 14,000 nurses statewide, launched a campaign supporting the legislation.

James Walker, a registered nurse at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City and secretary of the MNA board of directors, said hospital executives created difficult working conditions for nurses by cutting ancillary staff while boosting patient loads. Mr. Walker noted that legislation wouldn't take effect immediately, allowing hospitals time to hire staff. The legislation also grants exceptions to the ratio for emergencies.

The MHA launched a public awareness campaign earlier this year targeting high school students and adults considering a career change. It is also advocating for Michigan to join the national Nurse Licensure Compact.

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