Mandated nurse staffing ratios could cause Massachusetts to lose 1,000 behavioral health beds, trade group says

A proposed ballot initiative to mandate nurse staffing ratios in Massachusetts hospitals would lead to a reduction of 1,000 behavioral health beds, increase emergency room boarding for mental health patients and decrease access to recovery services statewide, according to a study by the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems.

The initiative, proposed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association, calls for one nurse to be responsible for no more than four typical medical or surgical patients at a given time. Different guidelines would apply with sicker patients, according the Boston Globe. Staffing ratios would also differ by unit.

Supporters of the initiative, including union officials, argue that legislating nurse-to-patient ratios will improve patient care. They contend nurses are overworked, which keeps them from doing their best job and could lead to medical errors, the Globe reported.

The Coalition to Protect Patient Safety, which opposes the initiative and was assembled by the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, argues the proposal would negatively affect nurse care delivery.

Under the initiative, emergency departments at the maximum nurse-to-patient ratios would have to turn away patients; patients seeking inpatient psychiatric or substance abuse care via an ED would have to wait longer for a bed; and mental health providers would face nurse recruitment challenges to meet the staffing mandate, according to the study.

"If [the initiative ] passes, it will result in a 38 percent decrease in patient volume. That's the equivalent of removing roughly 1,000 behavioral health beds from service," David Matteodo, executive director of the hospital associationsaid in a prepared statement. "This result could be devastating to both patients and the behavioral health system as a whole, as there would be no place for displaced patients to go when they are in acute distress and need immediate behavioral health services."


More articles on workforce: 
5 findings on hospitals' employee health benefits
Healthcare adds nearly 17,000 jobs in July, but growth slower than in June, May
Florida health career fair set for Aug. 22




Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars