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NY Nurse Bill on Life Watch

NY Nurse Bill on Life Watch

Times Union

September 14, 2009

Gov. David Paterson has until Wednesday to sign or veto a law that would let hospital consumers know more about the quality of nursing care, and the New York Nurses Association and the hospital lobby are at odds trying to influence the governor.

The bill in question passed unanimously in the Assembly, where it has passed before. It was overwhelmingly approved in the Senate this year — the first time it was allowed to come to a vote in that chamber because Democrats in control allowed it out of committee.

The measure would require hospitals to report nurse/patient staffing ratios to anyone inquiring while also disclosing information about adverse events such as bedsores, patient falls and medication errors. A consumer would be able to find these things out easily when shopping for a hospital.

Shaun Green, governmental affairs director for the 36,000-member Nurses Association, says he believe Paterson is leaning toward endorsing the bill. The information is considered proprietary by hospitals, and consumers should get it, he said.

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Nurse/patient ratios are already required of hospitals when it comes to liver transplant programs involving donors and recipients. That requirement came about as a result of a directive from the Department of Health after Times Union reporter Michael Hurewitz died donating part of his liver to his brother in 2003.

William Van Slyke, spokesman for the Healthcare Association of New York, said hospitals do not need more government regulation right now, particularly because money is tight and paperwork demands are crushing. He said budget cuts by the governor and Legislature are responsible for $4 billion in lost revenues for health care providers between April 2008 through 2010.

“We’re urging the governor to veto” the disclosure measure, Van Slyke said. “There is no consensus on the value of this information. It attempts to apply a single model to every hospital of the state. … It’s a move toward mandatory staffing and could impair the ability of a facility to administer its resources.”

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, a former nurse, said the information is already collected by regulators but can’t be obtained by consumers. She said disclosure could help people understand pressures that nurses are under, including understaffing that can lead to their own injuries. “If you have appropriate levels of staff you can prevent all of these adverse incidents,” she said.

A spokesman for the governor said the governor is reviewing the bill.

© YellowBrix 2009

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