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To deliver quality care to patients, it is important that hospitals identify the appropriate ratio of patients to nursing staff, and maintain that ratio. There have been countless studies that indicate that the higher the number of registered nurses per patient, the lower the rate of poor patient outcomes. Because hospitals might prioritize profit over patient care, the federal government has enacted regulations requiring hospitals that participate in Medicare to have adequate numbers of licensed nurses and personnel to care for patients. Many have criticized this law as vague, because it does not provide for a specific number of nurses per patient. States are free to enact more stringent laws requiring a specific number of nurses.
Recently, Senator Joseph Vitale sponsored a bill that is more specific than the federal regulation. Bill S-989 says that minimum nurse-to-patient ratios will vary depending on the type of healthcare unit, and will range from one registered nurse for every five patients, to one on one care for patients under anesthesia in an operating room.
The New Jersey State Nurses Association is a trade association that boasts membership of 125,000 registered nurses in New Jersey. The group is lobbying against this bill. A spokesperson for the Association argues that it could actually decrease the quality of care that nurses provide to patients. That is because, according to the Association, these ratios could result in inexperienced nurses being closer in proximity to emergency situations than more experienced staff. The group further added that having a rigid ratio is not ideal. Nurses, the Association argued, should be given flexibility to staff their units as needed.
One would think that a trade group would favor any legislation that resulted in greater employment opportunities for its members. This speaks volumes, that the ratio mentioned in the law is less than what many hospitals currently employ. This indicates the bill could actually result in fewer nurses on staff than at present, so hospitals can say that they are in compliance with state and federal laws by having one nurse for every five patients.
The Association maintains that this bill does not address the availability of certain personnel who could provide many of the same functions as registered nurses, such as nursing assistants, technicians, and patient transporters.
State staffing laws typically fall into one of three general types. First, they will require hospitals to have a nurse driven staffing committee that creates adequate staffing plans. Another approach mandates specific nurse to patient ratio. A third common approach requires facilities to disclose nurse-patient ratios either to a state regulatory body or to the public.
Many people do not realize that any type of medical professional, or even a hospital, can be held liable for medical malpractice. If you or someone you love has been injured, and you suspect that insufficient staffing levels are to blame, we can help. To discuss your case, contact the experienced South Jersey medical malpractice lawyers at Folkman Law Offices, P.C. today. Call us at 856-354-9444 or contact us online. We represent clients on a contingency fee basis, and offer flexible appointment times. We represent victims of medical malpractice across New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia area from our offices in Cherry Hill, Philadelphia, and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.