Published on September 12, 2018

Sturdy Memorial Hospital Announces Impact to Community If Ballot Question #1 Passes

Government mandated nurse staffing ratios could put hospital programs and services at risk

Attleboro, MA Sturdy Memorial Hospital today announced the negative impacts mandated nurse staffing ratios would have on their ability to provide safe, quality care to patients throughout their community. Slated to be Question 1 on the ballot this November, these rigid staffing ratios will devastate community hospitals and behavioral health facilities across Massachusetts.

"Sturdy is a small community hospital that many of our area residents rely on," said David Spoor, a Registered Nurse and Chief Nursing Officer at Sturdy Memorial Hospital. "This ballot question would be catastrophic for our hospital. In order to comply with the massive costs, we will need to look closely at which programs and services will need to be cut in order to stay viable. This will directly impact our community's access to care."

The nurse staffing ballot question will cost Sturdy Memorial Hospital $5.3 million that despite decades of fiscal responsibility, will result in major cuts to existing programs that community members rely on.

Emergency department wait times will increase dramatically for patients as hospital staff struggle to comply with the rigid ratios. During a day when the hospital is busy, patients will have to wait in the emergency room until a nurse is freed up to care for them within the legal ratio.

According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, the mandate will cost the Massachusetts health care system $1.3 billion in the first year, and more than $900 million every year thereafter. The ballot question would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, to adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.

"I never want to come into work and have to deliberate whether or not I will be able to legally care for my patients," said Meghan Aldrich, RN, MSN, at Sturdy Memorial Hospital. "If Question 1 passes, I will constantly be faced with a moral dilemma – to break the law and provide care outside of my ratio, or let a patient suffer."

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.

"There are no scientific studies or reports that demonstrate the effectiveness of government mandated, one-size-fits-all nurse staffing ratio for improving quality of care, patient outcomes or professional nursing practice," said Donna Glynn, President of the American Nurses Association and a Nurse Scientist for the VA Boston Healthcare System. "In fact, no studies evaluating nurse staffing ratios reported a magic number as the single factor to affect patient outcomes or job satisfaction. This ballot question is ignoring scientific fact around what is best for nursing practice, decision making and quality patient care."

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