Published on October 10, 2018

Sturdy Memorial Hospital's Emergency Care Center to Suffer Under Question #1 

Attleboro, MA - Sturdy Memorial Hospital announced their opposition to mandated nurse staffing ratios, citing the devastating impacts these rigid government requirements would have on their ability to provide emergency care to patients. Slated to be Question 1 on the ballot this November, these unnecessary and unfounded staffing requirements will dramatically increase emergency room wait times and delay life-saving services in hospitals across the state.

The enormous costs and operational hurdles associated with the nurse staffing ballot question will lead to severely negative impacts in emergency departments across the state. For Sturdy Memorial Hospital, this would mean dramatically increased wait times in the emergency room resulting in delayed services throughout the hospital; including those that are time-sensitive and life-saving. Sturdy believes that Question 1 will cause a massive reduction in the number of patients they are able to treat, and more importantly, threatens patient safety.

It is irresponsible to staff based on rigid ratios that do not take into account the dynamic variables affecting emergency department patient care, shares Dr. Ronald Van Ness-Otunnu, Associate Chief, Emergency Care Center at Sturdy Memorial Hospital. “We need to be staffing according to patient acuity, not a government mandated ratio. Reducing this dynamic process to the rigid confines proposed in the ballot vote will create a patient flow nightmare. The increased wait times in our ED could result in our patients having to travel further for care, which puts them at significant risk.

There are no exceptions to this mandate, even in the event of an unexpected influx of patients such as a multi-car crash or large fire. According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, mandated nurse staffing requirements would exacerbate the current nursing shortage, causing emergency department wait times to sky rocket, disproportionately affecting those in need of behavioral health care.

All hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, would be required to adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times. The proposed bill does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.

As nursing professionals, we are dedicated to patient safety and quality of care at Sturdy and throughout the state, says Alyssa Jolicoeur, RN, MSN, CEN, Clinical Coordinator at Sturdy's Emergency Care Center. We, as nurses, know what is best for our patients and work together to ensure that they are being cared for to our fullest capacity. Our years of training and ability to use our professional judgment enables us to provide the highest quality care for our patients. Patient care, especially in the emergency department, requires flexibility and quick thinking. Reducing our patients and nurses to numbers is not the answer, and quite simply, it puts our patients at risk.

The ballot question is opposed by the American Nurses Association - Massachusetts, Emergency Nurses Association - Massachusetts Chapter, Organization of Nurse Leaders, Infusion Nurses Society, Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing, Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses; Greater Boston Chapter, the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative, the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, and other healthcare and business leaders across the state.

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