On Thursday, a bill that could ensure safe staffing levels in New Jersey hospitals and ambulatory care centers could move forward.
The bill, A647, if passed by the assembly Thursday, would move on to the state Senate. If passed, the bill would establish minimum RN staffing standards. According to President of Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPEA) Ann Twomey, the adjustment in nursing numbers is a critical one that will help improve patient safety, reduce mortality rate, improve working conditions for health professionals and cut costs due to a decreased need for patient readmission and other factors.
“It is a key concern when nurses do their jobs so this bill is extremely important,” Twomey told PolitickerNJ. “There are staffing ratios that are in the current Department of Health regulations but this bill would add to areas in hospitals where there are no standards currently and improve some where some standards already exist.”
According to Twomey, a change in the regulations is overdue.
“When I refer to these Department of Health staffing regulations, they haven’t been changed since 1987,” Twomey said. “It doesn’t take into account the reality of healthcare in 2015. Times have changed. Everyone knows technology has changed. Care and treatments are a lot more sophisticated and in many cases more complicated.”
While the bill will require the hiring of more employees, Twomey said that financial concerns should not be an issue when looking at the future. Because of the improved care and decreased waste of resources and lack of readmission, she said that costs should not rise. She also discussed that the bill includes an article for struggling facilities.
“If a hospital is in financial distress, there can be some exceptions,” she said. “We feel that the bill addresses those concerns. ”
If the bill eventually were to become law in New Jersey, it would become the second state in the nation after California to enforce such strict staffing laws. Twomey said that she expects that the bill will pass.
“If we can be the second state, we should be the second state,” Twomey said. “We could help all the states get a safe patient nurse ratio as well.”
A similar bill, S2878, which would provide certified nursing assistant standards in nursing homes will not be heard Thursday but is also supported by HPEA.