Yesterday local nurses were applauding the end to a 10-year long battle to attain safe nursing standards statewide and were lauding the new 4-1 nurse-to-patient ratio as being essential to the current staffing crisis that has plagued the industry.
But Carolyn Kemp, public information officer for Alta Bates Medical Center, said the new standards authorized Wednesday by Gov. Gray Davis bring with them some serious budgeting implications.
“We will go along with whatever the state wants us to do,” Kemp said. “Clearly, it’s going to be very difficult for some hospitals to comply.”
According to Kemp Alta Bates/Summit lost $50 million last year and are not receiving adequate compensation for the services they supply to patients. In order for the hospital to be able to afford the additional nursing staff now mandated by the state, she says it will be necessary for the hospital to reconfigure their compensation rates.
“It’s going to be very difficult for us to balance this out,” Kemp said. “We’re not getting paid for all the services we provide. It’s going to be a very difficult balancing act, and it will be interesting for us all to through this process together.”
Kemp said it was too early for the hospital to take a stand on whether it supports the new safe nursing standards, but she did say the hospital had every intention of complying.
“We are waiting to see how this all comes out. It’s too premature for anyone to jump on any bandwagon,” she added.
But for some members of the California Nurses Association the waiting is over.
“It’s a great day for patient safety. It’s a great day for nurse safety,” said Walnut Creek Kaiser Permanente Register Nurse Trande Phillips. “The fight we’ve had in the last ten years has been about quality of care and staffing. And it existed primarily because the hospitals wanted to staff based on a budget.”
“It has been a constant battle for years now to have enough staff to provide the proper care for patients, and each time we come to them they’ve said “I’m sorry we can only afford this much staff to care for patients no matter what.”
“This is going to go a great deal towards solving the nursing shortage because it will show nurses who have left the profession that they can now return. It will show them that there is a light to the end of the tunnel,” McVay said. “ Now they can return to an acute care setting and take the time to do what their job and what they’ve been educated and trained and want to do -- take care of people.”
McVay also said that now with the mandatory staffing ratio that there will be more trained staff available which will go towards relieving the other battle nurses have waged with hospital administrators, mandatory overtime.
“Now they will no longer be allowed to staff hospitals in a panic. There will be a pool of nurses available and scheduled to work,” Phillips said, echoing McVay’s remarks.
Kemp said that California faces the most intensive nursing shortage in the nation and that getting enough nurses to care for the sick is priority number one for everyone concerned.
“There’s a lot for us to learn on this issue,” Kemp said. “We hope this will bring the nurses back.”
According to Davis office any hospitals found to be violating the new standards will be subject to penalty.