Nurse Group Pushes for Nurse Staffing Ratio in D.C. Hospitals

National Nurses United has joined a Washington, D.C. nurses’ union in calling for the renewal of a 2013 bill intended to mandate nurse ratios at the District’s hospitals.

NNU and the local union argue that understaffing in D.C. hospitals puts patients’ lives at risk, citing 215 separate occurrences when patients were “endangered” because of nurse staffing levels. One example describe a labor and delivery unit in which three nurses of a shift of ten were left to care for ten women in labor when five nurses were pulled away for two C-sections and a hemorrhaging patient.

The original bill would establish a minimum ratio of nurses to patients on every shift at every District hospital. Facilities in noncompliance would face a $25,000 daily fine; required overtime and averaged ratios would be banned.

While some Council members support the legislation, which mirrors legislation enacted in California ten years ago, hospitals argue that the bill fails to consider the unpredictability of staffing needs and unnecessarily raises their cost of labor.

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