Mass. Medical Society Opposes Staffing Ballot Question

The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), representing more than 25,000 physicians and medical students in the commonwealth, has joined the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety in opposing the nurse staffing question on the ballot this November. MMS joins a growing contingent of healthcare leaders to oppose the proposed law.

The ballot question 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 patient care areas. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.

“Massachusetts’ world-class healthcare has everything to do with the team approach to patient care,” said Alain Chaoui, M.D., president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “As a family physician, I know the value of team-based care that is focused on the needs of the patient. This law would fundamentally erode that team dynamic and replace it with a rigid system that relies on arbitrary numbers, which would put patient care at risk.”

An independent cost analysis found that the proposed ballot question – designated as Question 1 last week – would cost the state more than a billion dollars each year, and those costs will be felt across the healthcare system. The initiative would override the judgment of healthcare professionals and prevent hospitals from admitting patients if the number of nurses on duty does not comply with the rigid government mandate.

“There are no scientific studies or reports that demonstrate the effectiveness of government mandated, one-size-fits-all nurse staffing ratio for improving quality of care, patient outcomes or professional nursing practice,” said Donna Glynn, president of the American Nurses Association Massachusetts and a nurse scientist for the VA Boston Healthcare System. “In fact, no studies evaluating nurse staffing ratios reported a magic number as the single factor to affect patient outcomes or job satisfaction. This ballot question is ignoring scientific fact around what is best for nursing practice, decision making and quality patient care.”

MMS joins the American Nurses Association Massachusetts, the Organization of Nurse Leaders, the Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Infusion Nurse Society’s New England Chapter, Home Care Alliance, and VNA Care in protecting the state’s healthcare system and its patients from the consequences of the rigid, costly mandate scheduled to go before voters in the November 2018 election.