Employer Groups Join Opposition to Nurse Staffing Ballot Question
The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable have all joined the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety to oppose a nurses union’s ballot question, which would impose government-mandated, rigid nurse staffing ratios on every Massachusetts hospital.
“This proposal would be bad for business and terrible for patients,” said AIM President Richard Lord. “The one-size-fits-all mandate will force hospitals to decrease service considerably to comply with the costs associated with this bill. These costs will be felt across the entire healthcare system, important programs will be cut, wait times will increase, and some hospitals will close entirely.”
"Health care costs are already a burden for many families and employers across Massachusetts,” said Eileen McAnneny, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. “The additional costs incurred from this bill will be passed on to patients, with no proof that it will improve quality of care. Massachusetts should use its healthcare dollars to focus on more pressing priorities, like mental health care and addiction treatment rather than this self-serving ballot initiative.”
If it passes, the ballot question will cost Massachusetts more than $800 million each year, and patients will pay the price in the form of higher insurance costs and taxes at a time when many Massachusetts families are already struggling to pay for healthcare. Hospitals will be forced to cut vital health programs, such as opioid treatment, mental health services, cancer screenings, early childhood intervention, domestic violence programs and pre- or post- natal care.
“We have some of the best hospitals in the nation, with consistently high-quality outcomes in every category. If passed, this ballot question would endanger this hard-earned reputation with absolutely no evidence that that one-size-fits-all nurse staffing ratios will improve patient care,” said Jim Rooney, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. “The added costs that our hospitals would have to take on would be passed off to our residents and small business owners, which goes against our goal of ensuring that quality care is accessible to all and affordable for the state, businesses, and individuals.”
“While healthcare in Massachusetts – near universal access to it and the high quality of it – remains a key competitive advantage and major economic engine, the rising costs of healthcare continue to be a concern for businesses,” said JD Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable. “We need to adopt a balanced approach that ensures Massachusetts remains a global leader in healthcare, while carefully managing costs for consumers and businesses. Complex issues such as staffing decisions at hospitals should be made by health care professionals, not at the statewide ballot box.”
The ballot question, proposed by a Massachusetts nurses’ union, which represents less than a quarter of nurses in the commonwealth, would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all hospital units, at all times. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals, resulting in increased costs across the healthcare system.
Even among nurses, the proposed ballot question is raising red flags and facing mounting opposition. The business groups join the American Nurses Association Massachusetts and the Organization of Nurse Leaders, among others, in opposition.
“Registered Nurses in Massachusetts should adapt staffing plans based on the dynamic needs of their patients —not by sheer numbers,” said Lynne Hancock, a registered nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital. “Each nurse is unique in their experience and skill set, and each patient has unique healthcare needs. To ensure the most optimal patient outcomes in the safest care environment, staffing decisions should be made in real time by clinical experts – the nurses delivering the day-to-day care.”
To comply with the mandated ratios, hospitals would be forced to transfer patients to other hospitals further outside their community or allow the emergency room to fill until patients can be admitted within the legal ratios. Emergency room wait times will dramatically increase, as hospitals would be prevented from admitting patients if the number of nurses on duty does not comply with the rigid government mandate.