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Terminator 4?

November 10, 2004 -- Today the Burbank Leader and Glendale News-Press ran Jackson Bell's story about the response of Los Angeles area hospitals and nurses to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to delay the January 2005 implementation of the state nurse staffing law's 1-to-5 medical-surgical nurse-patient ratio requirement till 2008. The piece, headlined "Opinions differ on nursing ratio plan," is a short, fairly balanced reaction piece, with comment from a nursing union leader opposed to the proposal, though it could have explained more clearly that research shows nurse short-staffing increases patient mortality.

Bell's article explains that the proposed emergency regulation would mean that the required ratio for medical-surgical units would remain at 1-to-6 until 2008, and that it would also "exempt hospitals from the ratio while slammed with an influx of patients." It notes that some LA area hospitals are relieved at the potential reprieve the Governor is proposing, while others do not seem concerned because they are "already on track to meet the impending standards." Providence St. Joseph chief nursing officer Sharon Gerson says her hospital is "recruiting in the Phillippines and offering incentives" to try to comply with the requirements in the midst of the state's nursing shortage. But Glendale Adventist's senior vice president of clinical services Gwen Matthews says that her hospital is on track to meet the new requirement, crediting "the hospital's high retention of nurses to a healthy work environment." The piece reports that the state's Office of Administrative Law has until the week of November 15 to pass on the regulation.

The story notes that "union leaders" contend the proposal would "prolong a cycle of poor care for patients." It quotes Ingla Dahlgren, a Service Employees International Union spokeswoman and critical care nurse, as saying that the new proposal, along with LA-area hospital closures, would lead to "more medical malpractice because nurses and doctors will be too overworked and stressed." Dahlgren predicts a "huge uproar" if the measure passes, and urges all to "take to the streets and protest" if it does. The piece might have included comment from the California Nurses Association, which was instrumental in the 1999 passage of the ratio law. It might also have noted that research has shown that nurse short staffing--even one additional patient per nurse, which would be the result of the Governator's proposal--can cause a 7% increase in patient mortality.

See Jackson Bell's article "Opinions differ on nursing ratio plan: Some hospital officials praise governor's plan to delay nurse-to- patient ratios, but unions disagree" in the November 10, 2004 edition of the Burbank Leader, a publication of the Los Angeles Times.

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