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Chicago Nurses Host Town Hall on Safe Staffing Bill

National Nurses United / NNOC Press Release, 5/2/13

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Proposal Would Improve Patient Care Protections

Chicago nurses will hold a town hall meeting Monday night to call public attention to a state legislation that would dramatically improve patient safety in Illinois hospitals by setting limits on the number of patients per nurse, along with other patient protections. In addition to nurses, patients, community allies and legislators will be present.

The Hospital Patient Protection Act, House Amendment 1 to House Bill 282, is sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers of Chicago. It is modeled after a highly successful California law that has saved thousands of patient lives as well as keeping experienced nurses at the hospital bedside. Rep. Flowers will be present at the town hall meeting.

Both the bill and the hearing are sponsored by National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses which represents thousands of Chicago area RNs.

What:           Staffing Ratio Town Hall!
When:           Monday, May 6, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where:         Hektoen Building, 627 South Wood Street, Chicago

The bill would establish mandatory limits on the number of patients each RN can care for, also known as nurse-to-patient ratios, specific by hospital unit, for all Illinois hospitals. It is similar to limits or ratios for class sizes, day care centers, airline travel personnel, and minimum standards for clean air and water.

“Illinois nurses have seen a dangerous erosion of care standards in hospitals across the state as too many hospitals put their bottom line ahead of patient safety,” said Brigitt Manson, an RN at University of Chicago's Comer Children's Hospital. “Like nurses across the country, we know there is a proven, effective remedy that will protect our patients, safe nurse to patient staffing ratios. It is time for our legislators to act.”

Additionally the bill would create whistleblower protection for RNs and other healthcare workers who expose unsafe conditions.

Similar legislative efforts are underway in other states and cities – a RN ratio bill was introduced in the District of Columbia City Council earlier this year with the support of 10 of 13 council members – as well as national bills. In Congress, a Senate bill, S 739, was reintroduced last month. A companion House bill is expected to be re-introduced by Chicago Congress member Jan Schakowsky soon.

The effect of the California law has been documented in a number of studies, including a prominent 2010 University of Pennsylvania study comparing California hospitals to New Jersey and Pennsylvania hospitals. I

The Pennsylvania study found that  New Jersey hospitals would have 14 percent fewer patient deaths and Pennsylvania 11 percent fewer deaths if they matched California’s 1:5 ratios in surgical units, and fewer California RNs miss changes in patient conditions because of their workload, and nurses have more confidence that patients can manage on their own after discharge.

Most recently, a September 2012 report by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, titled “State Mandated Nurse Staffing Levels Alleviate Workloads, Leading to Lower Patient Mortality and Higher Nurse Satisfaction,” emphasized the correlation between higher nurse workloads that are associated with more patient deaths, complications, and medical errors.

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