In an effort to boost nursing staff at hospitals, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has devoted a fair amount of time and other resources to legislation regarding nurse staffing ratios, but without much success. Now they are aiming to take the cause to the ballot box, letting the voters decide, and it’s picking up the interest and counter-effort of a few home care groups.
The main focus of this fight involves the potential for reducing the availability of qualified nurses for in home care. As legislators and others have been noting for years, caring for patients at home, especially for those dealing with long-term health issues, is a far more cost-effective option than letting these men and women remain in a hospital. As those opposed to a ballot measure contend, if this legislation passes, then having proper care for men and women in their homes will be more complicated and could become more expensive.
Staff writers for the Gloucester Daily Times noted in the news blog, Home care groups oppose nurse staffing ballot question:
“”If hospitals across Massachusetts need to hire more than 5,000 new nurses, I fear it will pull nurses away from the home health community,” Pat Kelleher, director of the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts, said in a statement.
Holly Chaffee, a registered nurse and CEO of VNA Care, said the ballot measure “will contribute to the shortage of seasoned nurses” and is in conflict with what she called “a strong movement toward shifting acute care patients home.””
Not all home care agencies or groups oppose the measure, however. The majority of home care agencies rely on caregivers who assist with basic tasks of everyday life, not the direct medical care that visiting nurses offers. It’s unclear whether the VNA or other home care groups opposing the ballot have documentable proof highlighting the impact minimum nurse staffing ratios in hospitals could have on the home care sector.
According to the Massachusetts Nurse Association, without ratios, that often leads to understaffing, nurses being overwhelmed by their workload (the number of patients under their care) and thus increases medical mistakes and readmissions. It’s unclear how nursing staff levels affect readmissions as an individual would need to be discharged first, and they could then rely on the support of a visiting nurse in their home.
It was not made clear initially when the proposal would have to be approved by or how many signatures might be necessary to receive a balloting measure. It’s also not clear is the general public has an interest in pushing this to a ballot measure this year.