April 13, 2018

Business groups rallying against nursing staffing ballot question

The opposition to a proposed ballot question that would impose strict nurse-to-patient staffing ratios for Massachusetts hospitals has four new powerful voices representing thousands of Bay State businesses.

The state's four largest business groups – Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and Massachusetts Business Roundtable - said Thursday they were joining the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety, a group organized to oppose the prospective ballot question being pushed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association.

Proponents of the question say improved and standardized staffing levels in hospitals are needed to avoid mistakes being made with patients and prevent complications that lead to costly hospital readmissions. The opposition, however, has warned that the cost of government-regulated staffing requirements will make health care more costly and force hospitals to eliminate vital programs and community services.

"This proposal would be bad for business and terrible for patients," AIM President Richard Lord said in a statement.

The Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care, which has been organized in support of the question, has disputed estimates that mandated nurse staffing could add as much as $800 million in costs to the health care system, and argued that hospitals can afford to improve staffing.

But MFT President Eileen McAnneny said in a statement there is "no proof" that the ballot question will improve quality of care. "Massachusetts should use its health care dollars to focus on more pressing priorities, like mental health care and addiction treatment rather than this self-serving ballot initiative," McAnneny said.

Chamber President Jim Rooney also questioned the "one-size-fits-all approach" of the ballot question that does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals.

Business Roundtable Executive Director JD Chesloff said, "Complex issues such as staffing decisions at hospitals should be made by health care professionals, not at the statewide ballot box."

If the Legislature does not consider the nurse staffing proposal or an alternative compromise by May 2, proponents will have to gather a second round of 10,792 signatures by July 4 to qualify for the ballot.

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