Plymouth, MA – If passed by voters on November 6, Ballot Question 1 would increase wait times in Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth’s (BID-Plymouth) Emergency Department (ED) and cause delays in admitting patients from the ED to the hospital and other facilities, negatively affecting patient care.
Question 1 would institute inflexible, government-mandated, nurse staffing ratios at hospitals throughout the state regardless of a patient’s needs. Patient assignments at BID-Plymouth are currently determined by our experienced nurses on the floors. No two patients are alike. Age, severity of illness or injury, overall health and other medical conditions all factor into a professional nurse’s decision making when determining patient assignments. Government-mandated staffing ratios would ignore this fact.
“Our entire team of nurses, clinicians and support staff are committed to providing safe and high quality care to our patients, however, Question 1 requiring mandated nurse staffing ratios is not the answer,” says Kim Scheub, MD, medical director of BID-Plymouth’s Emergency Department. “The impact to BID-Plymouth’s Emergency Department would be overwhelmingly negative, resulting in increased wait times and delays in transferring admitted patients from the Emergency Department to an inpatient or intensive care unit.”
Behavioral Health Impact
A study conducted by the Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems last August estimated that Ballot Question 1 would result in the loss of 1,000 behavioral health beds statewide due to a lack of nurses. “At BID-Plymouth, the availability of open Emergency Department beds would be greatly reduced as behavioral patients would need to stay in the ED awaiting the acquisition of an appropriate inpatient psychiatric bed,” adds Scheub.
In addition to the loss of behavioral health beds in Massachusetts and a disruption to patients treated locally, the ripple effects from Ballot Question 1 would make it difficult to transfer patients needing complex care to Boston, as academic medical centers would also be at the government mandated ratio capacity as well. “Overall, we anticipate gridlock in community Emergency Departments, making it increasingly difficult for patients to access the emergency care that they need and expect from their local hospital,” adds Scheub.
According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, mandated nursing staffing requirements would exacerbate the current nursing shortage, which is currently highest in Psychiatric units (7.8%) and in Emergency Departments (7.5%).
A $900 Million Price Tag
This month, the state’s Health Policy Commission estimated that Ballot Question 1 would cost up to $950 million annually to implement at hospitals statewide. The commission also found Ballot Question 1 would require the state’s hospitals to hire more than 5,000 registered nurses by January 1, 2019. Experts question the ability of hospitals to hire this many nurses and predict that a resulting nurse shortage would cause hospitals to reduce the number of staffed beds due to a lack of nurses, leading to longer wait times, cancellation of elective surgeries and elimination of hospital services and community programs.
BID-Plymouth would need to hire an additional 17 Emergency Department nurses and a total of more than 70 nurses if Ballot Question 1 passes. The unfunded government nurse staffing ratio mandate would cost BID-Plymouth $8 million annually.
There are no staffing exceptions to this mandate, even in the event of an unexpected influx of patients – such as in the event of a multi-car crash or large fire.
The state’s hospitals and more than 70 health care organizations, including the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians, the American Nurses Association-Massachusetts and the Emergency Nurses Association-Massachusetts, have all publicly opposed Ballot Question 1. BID-Plymouth opposes Ballot Question 1.
About Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth
Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Plymouth is a not-for-profit organization serving 12 towns in Plymouth and Barnstable Counties. BID-Plymouth is part of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center family of hospitals. Established in 1901 as Jordan Hospital, BID-Plymouth is a full-service, 164-bed acute care community hospital accredited by The Joint Commission, the College of American Pathologists, the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer, and the American College of Radiology. www.bidplymouth.org
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