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Resounding Call for Hospital Safety; Pass Patient Protection Act, Say Nurses and Community Leaders

Press Release, 6/14/13

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WASHINGTON, DC – A gathering of 130 registered nurses and District of Columbia community leaders and residents joined together in the Wilson Building Thursday to express strong support for the Patient Protection Act of 2013.  The Act would set specific limits on the number of patients for which registered nurses can safely provide care. 

Tina Trowell, an accountant and local resident, shared the details of her 82-year old mother’s death at Washington Hospital Center. “I am here because my mother is dead, and died in pain, as a result of the crisis in our city’s hospitals. ”

“If there had been enough nurses on staff my mother may still be with us today,” said Trowell.

“ She certainly would not have spent her last weeks in agony because there was no one to change the dressings on her wounds or turn her every two hours to prevent the development of her severe pressure ulcers.”

Nikki Lewis, Executive Director of DC Jobs with Justice, shared these words:   “Working mothers, children, and the rest of our community members deserve better from our hospitals, and the only way that will happen is if government steps up and forces hospitals to be accountable by ensuring there is a mandatory, minimum standard of nursing and other hospital staff for the patients in the hospitals.”

“This bill won’t bring my mother back, but hopefully it will stop another daughter from having to watch her mother suffer the way I did,” said Tina Trowell.

Nurses in DC lobby for safe staffing legislation.
Nurses gather for DC lobby day. Photo by RickReinhard.com

“When you or your loved one goes to the hospital, you expect and deserve—and the nurses in this town want to deliver—optimal care. But this is simply not possible when hospital administrators don’t provide a sufficient number of nurses to take care of the patients that come through our doors, many of whom are sicker than ever before,” said Sandra Falwell, a registered nurse at Children’s National Medical Center, a vice president of National Nurses United, and board member of the District of Columbia Nurses Association/NNU.

“We have a solution for this—the Patient Protection Act—which would mandate minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in every hospital in this city. This bill, once enacted, will save lives and will alleviate suffering,” Falwell said.

After making their statements, participants lobbied at council members’ offices, including a visit to members in the council chambers. 

“No one here needs convincing on why we need the Patient Protection Act,” said Jos Williams, president of the Metropolitan Labor Council, AFL-CIO.   “We are here because we need it passed now so not one more person is suffering or dying unnecessarily.”  

The Act was introduced in February in the Council of the District of Columbia by Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council Members Yvette Alexander, Jack Evans, David Grosso, Anita Bonds, Jim Graham, Kenyan McDuffie, Marion Barry, Vincent Orange and Tommy Wells. A hearing on the legislation is pending before the District Council’s Health Committee.

Among the community organizations participating in the day are Catholics United, Jews United for Justice, Gray Panthers, District of Columbia Firefighters Association, DC Employment Justice Center, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, and the DC Building and Construction Trades Council.

Modeled after a 1999 law which has been successfully implemented in California, the Patient Protection Act of 2013 addresses this problem by establishing mandatory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios by hospital unit, create whistleblower protection for RNs and other healthcare workers who expose unsafe conditions, and ban mandatory overtime for RNs, a dangerous practice that can lead to medical errors.  

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