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Hundreds of Nurses To Press Congress Wednesday

National Nurses United Press Release, 5/10/17

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On Health Reform, Medicare for All, and Patient Safety

In honor of International Nurses’ Week, more than 100 members of National Nurses United (NNU), the nation’s largest union of registered nurses, will visit Capitol Hill Wednesday, May 10, 2017, from across the United States

The nurses will ask members of Congress to support expanded and improved Medicare for All, patient protection legislation, and other bills to lower prescription drug costs, make hospitals safer and fund health care, free college tuition and other social needs.

"Health care is a human right and the way to make that right a reality for everyone in this country is through an expanded and improved Medicare for All system,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

“Nurses understand that we are in a healthcare crisis that is only going to get worse for our families and communities and so it is imperative that Congress act now to solve the crisis through the implementation of a single-payer Medicare for All system,” said Ross.

Astronomical healthcare costs and lack of access continue to drive individuals, families and businesses past their breaking point while insurance companies continue to soak-up billions of healthcare dollars as millions of children's basic needs go unmet.

Nurses will urge members of Congress to support H.R. 676, legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), to expand and improve Medicare to all to end health disparities, effectively control costs, and assure that everyone has equal access to an excellent standard of therapeutic care.  HR 676 currently has 108 co-sponsors, which represents the majority of the House Democratic Caucus.

“The solution is not making our broken healthcare system even worse, it’s by achieving real reform, once and for all, by improving and expanding Medicare, one of the signature reforms in U.S. history, to cover all Americans,” said NNU Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro. "Nurses are speaking powerfully to our elected officials of both parties to tell them what Americans need and that’s a fair, just and equitable healthcare system for all.”

NNU is working with Senator Bernie Sanders on the upcoming introduction of his Medicare for All bill in the US Senate.  Nurses will also be urging Senators to reject the American Health Care Act, passed last week by the US House of Representatives, which NNU has branded “cruel and unusual punishment for millions of Americans.”

Nurses will also be advocating for powerful patient protection legislation introduced last week in Congress. The bills, introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), will set specific safety limits on the numbers of patients each RN can care for in hospitals throughout the U.S.

“Studies have clearly shown that safe staffing saves lives, and we are proud to stand with Sen. Brown and Rep. Schakowsky who are standing up for patient safety with this critical legislation,” said Deborah Burger, RN, co-president of NNU. “It is a travesty that 49 out of 50 states in the U.S. impose no legal limit on how many patients can be assigned to a nurse at one time in acute care hospitals.

“NNU has fought for years to right that wrong,” Burger said, “and we will demand that our elected officials stand with the nurses to say that hospital patients deserve safe nursing care.”

The bills, H.R. 2392 and S.1063, both known as the Nurse Staffing Standards for Hospital Patient Safety and Quality Care Act, establish minimum RN-to-patient ratios for every hospital unit at all times. These bills also provide whistleblower protection to assure that nurses are free to speak out for enforcement of safe staffing standards.

The bills are modeled on a California law, fought for and won by the California Nurses Association/NNU, that has saved patient lives, improved the quality of care, and reduced nurse burnout, keeping experienced RNs at the patient bedside.

“In California we have seen the results. The law works, and all Americans deserve the quality of care that real safe staffing laws provide,” said Bonnie Castillo, RN, NNU’s Director of Health and Safety. “The evidence demonstrates that RN staffing ratios prevent unnecessary sickness, injuries and even death. It’s time for Congress to make these standards the law of the land, across the country.”

Nurses will also be advocating for important legislation to lower prescription drug prices, empower nurses at Veterans Affairs medical centers to be powerful patient advocates, and fund health care, education, jobs and other vital programs through a small tax on Wall Street.

NNU’s mobilization in Washington, DC is part of a global week of action being organized by Global Nurses United, an international federation of nurses’ unions in 21 countries on six continents, in honor of international nurses’ week.  Friday, May 12 marks the 197th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

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