California waivers of hospital staffing ratios to expire Feb. 8

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The California Department of Public Health said it is no longer accepting expedited hospital waivers of minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, and existing approved staffing waivers will expire Feb. 8 unless the state determines there is an unprecedented circumstance. 

The waivers are associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. California law limits the number of patients that can be assigned to a hospital nurse during one shift, taking into account severity of patient illness. But Gov. Gavin Newsom waived enforcement of the ratios during the pandemic to respond to the needs of coronavirus patients. And in December, the state allowed hospitals to automatically obtain expedited waivers of safe staffing ratios for the intensive care unit and emergency room, among other critical departments, according to the California Nurses Association, which has been fighting all waivers of safe staffing standards. 

The union argues that staffing ratios reduce healthcare errors and nurse burnout and called the policy change "an incredible victory for patients and nurses, because we know that safe staffing saves lives."

The California Hospital Association — which contends facilities need flexibility during the pandemic to care for a sudden and unpredictable patient surge — said hospitals are working with the state "to ensure this policy change will not put patients at risk."  

The policy change eliminates all existing waivers, but hospitals can still apply for ratio waivers using the standard process, under which the state will review and determine whether to grant one, according to the California Department of Public Health.

To learn more about the policy change, click here.  

 

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