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October 3, 2018

Statement by Bea Grause, RN, JD, President of HANYS, Regarding the Mandated Nurse Staffing Ratios Ballot Initiative in Massachusetts

The report issued today on mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (MHPC) should serve as a wake-up call for New York policymakers.

MHPC estimated that a proposed staffing ratio mandate would cost Massachusetts taxpayers between $676 million and $949 million annually. In addition to increasing costs, this mandate would cause the elimination of needed hospital services and reduce other staffing levels.

MHPC’s findings have direct applicability to New York. Massachusetts, with 43 hospitals statewide, is less than one-fourth the size of New York’s healthcare system. Negative cost and workforce consequences would be significantly greater in New York, where a proposed staffing mandate also covers nursing homes.

Importantly, the MHPC report found that 14 years of nurse staffing ratios in California (the only state with such a mandate) has failed to improve patient outcomes.

This report underscores the imperative for New York policymakers to carefully consider broad ramifications of government mandated staffing ratios.

The report also illustrates how rigid staffing mandates are the wrong approach. Staffing is a complex process best left to experienced professionals for whom quality of care has always been a top priority. These professionals continuously assess a variety of clinical factors and deploy care delivery teams that include nurses’ aides, nurses, specialists, technicians and doctors. Research shows that rigid mandates can disrupt this team approach and take healthcare backward in terms of quality of care and patient outcomes.