Statewide ballot question could set nurse to patient ratios

Boston Statehouse

There’s a statewide ballot question which could set nurse to patient ratios in all Massachusetts hospitals.  

Voters will head to the polls in November, to decide whether there should be a limit on how many patients a nurse can see at any given time.

If voters vote “yes” on question one this fall, that would place a limit on the number of patients a single registered nurse can be assigned at a time and impose a $25,000 fine on hospitals that violate those ratios. The limits would be determined by the type of medical unit. 

Many local hospitals, including Cooley Dickinson in Northampton, believe voting “yes” would have negative impacts on quality care.  

“You look at the emergency department and if each nurse has four patients already what would happen if that patient comes to the hospital that needs care,” Angela Belmonte, chief nursing officer at Cooley Dickinson said. “We wouldn’t be able to bring them in, or we would be able to bring them in but we would be fined $25,000 for every instance in which we went above our staffing guidelines.”

The Women’s Health Institute is in support of the proposal, including Suzanne Love, who works at Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s emergency room in Greenfield. 

She told 22News, If passed, it would result in increased safety and better overall outcomes for patients.

“People need to vote yes so they can have the best care for themselves and loved ones,” Love said. “Do you want to have your mother in the hospital at 3 in the morning, ringing the call bell and no one comes to answer to help her with her pain, with her need for some food and some other kind of help because there is not enough staff to answer that call bell.”

Some hospitals, however, are worried the staffing ratio would force hundreds of patients to travel further for care because there wouldn’t be enough staff.  

You can vote on the proposal on Tuesday, November 6.

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