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Nurses’ Safe Staffing Bill is Voted “Ought to Pass” Out of Labor & Housing Committee

Andy O’Brien
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On Wednesday the Legislature's Labor and Housing Committee voted to support LD 1639, the Maine Quality Care Act, and send it to the full legislature, announced Maine State Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (MSNA/NNOC). The Labor and Housing Committee voted to endorse this bill as “ought to pass.”

If passed by the full state legislature, the Maine Quality Care Act will set enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios in Maine’s hospitals. The bill covers the following health care facilities: privately owned or privately operated hospitals (including acute care, specialty, and psychiatric hospitals), freestanding emergency departments, and ambulatory surgical facilities.

“This is a historic victory for nurses and patients in the state of Maine,” said MSNA President Cokie Giles, RN. “We have never been so close to ensuring that our patients have the nursing care they need and deserve.”

Please contact your legislators & ask them to support LD 1639!

With its passage, the Maine Quality Care Act will make Maine the second state in the country to pass legally enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios. In 1999, California enacted its safe staffing law. Studies show that mandated RN-to-patient ratios improve patient care and reduce patient mortality. When RNs are forced to care for too many patients at one time, patients are at higher risk of preventable medical errors, avoidable complications, falls and injuries, pressure ulcers, increased length of hospital stay, higher numbers of hospital readmissions, and death.

In her strong letter of support to the Maine Legislature, Linda Aiken, University of Pennsylvania Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, the leading research center on the nursing workforce and outcomes of hospital nurse staffing, stated that “a very large and rigorous research literature of more than 35 years consisting of hundreds of studies and multiple systematic reviews published in the most prestigious scientific journals in health care” show “that the more patients nurses in hospitals care for each, the worse the outcomes are including preventable deaths, preventable hospital acquired infections, poor patient satisfaction and worse financial outcomes for hospitals resulting from longer patient stays, Medicare penalties for excess readmissions, and high nurse turnover that costs hospitals many millions of dollars every year.”

Safe staffing helps recruit and retain registered nurses. When California’s law took effect in 2004, it attracted nurses back to direct-care nursing, and reduced nurse burnout, keeping experienced RNs at the patient bedside.

“California’s example shows us what is possible,” said Giles. “By making conditions better for patients and nurses, we can have safe staffing and better patient outcomes. Now that we have made history in Maine by getting this bill voted out of committee, we are looking forward to passage of this bill by the full Maine State Legislature. From there, we look forward to our safe staffing bill getting to Governor Mills’s desk. We expect the next few weeks to be a lot of work, but we are used to hard work and perseverance when it comes to our patients’ lives.”