Nurses rally in Pennsylvania to back staffing ratios bill

Nurses came together May 14 in Warren, Pa., to progress legislation that would mandate adoption of registered nurse-to-patient staffing ratios by hospitals, the Times Observer reported.

The event took place in memory of those who died because of inadequate staffing. It ended at the office of state Rep. Kathy Rapp, who has indicated the bill won't leave the House Health Committee she chairs, according to the Times Observer.

"Rep. Rapp is choosing to stand with hospital lobbyists rather than nurses and patients by blocking this bill," Eileen Kelly, a retired nurse who helped organize the protest, told the newspaper.

"We need immediate action on this bill. It will make our hospitals safer for patients. It will prevent moral injury to nurses, and [it] will bring more nurses back to the bedside."

The proposed Patient Safety Act would mandate nurse-to-patient ratios for direct care registered nurses, with ratios varying in different units. For example, the ratio in the intensive care unit would be no more than 1:2 at a given time, and the ratio for a stepdown, intermediate care unit would be no more than 1:3 at a given time.

The bill was referred to the House Health Committee in February 2021.

This month, Ms. Rapp said nurses have the right to hold the event but that the legislation would lead to rural hospitals closing, according to the Times Observer.

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania has also expressed concerns about the bill. In a statement shared with Becker's, the group said the proposal "would not improve safety. Instead, it would put care at risk by establishing requirements that would be impossible to meet at a time when hospitals are struggling to fill open nursing positions. A mandate like this could shutter hospital doors in some areas, or delay patients' access to care."

Nurses of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization that includes nurses from across the state, has supported the legislation, saying it is needed for safe staffing in hospitals. 

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