DiversityNursing Blog

Study That Paid Patients to Take H.I.V. Drugs Fails

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Feb 25, 2015 @ 11:51 AM

DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

24HIV articleLarge resized 600

A major study testing whether Americans would take their H.I.V. drugs every day if they were paid to do so has essentially failed, the scientists running it announced Tuesday at an AIDS conference here.

Paying patients in the Bronx and in Washington — where infection rates are high among poor blacks and Hispanics — up to $280 a year to take their pills daily improved overall adherence rates very little, the study’s authors said.

The hope was that the drugs would not only improve the health of the people taking them, but help slow the spread of H.I.V. infections. H.I.V. patients who take their medicine regularly are about 95 percent less likely to infect others than patients who do not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only a quarter of all 1.1 million Americans with H.I.V. are taking their drugs regularly enough to not be infectious.

Paying patients $25 to take H.I.V. tests, and then $100 to return for the results and meet a doctor, also failed, the study found.

“We did not see a significant effect of financial incentives,” said Dr. Wafaa M. El-Sadr, an AIDS expert at Columbia University and the lead investigator. But, she said, there is “promise for using such incentives in a targeted manner.”

Cash payments might still work for some patients and some poor-performing clinics, she said.

Other H.I.V.-prevention research released here Tuesday offered good news for gay men but disappointing results for African women.

Two studies — both of gay men, one in Britain and the other in France — confirmed earlier research showing that pills to prevent infection can be extremely effective if taken daily or before and after sex. Both were stopped early because they were working so well that it would have been unethical to let them continue with men in control groups who were not given the medicine.

But a large trial involving African women of a vaginal gel containing an antiviral drug failed — apparently because 87 percent of the women in the trial were unable to use the gel regularly.

The failure of the cash-incentives trial was a surprise and a disappointment to scientists and advocates. It had paid out $2.8 million to 9,000 patients in 39 clinics over three years, but the clinics where money was distributed did only 5 percent better than those that did not — a statistically insignificant difference.

Some small clinics and those where patients had been doing poorly at the start of the study did improve as much as 13 percent, however.

People in other countries have been successfully paid to stop smoking while pregnant and to get their children to school. In Africa, paying poor teenage girls to attend school lowered their H.I.V. rates; scientists concluded that it eased the pressure on them to succumb to “sugar daddies” — older men who gave them money for food, clothes and school fees in return for sex.

One study presented here at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections estimated that every prevented H.I.V. infection saved $230,000 to $338,000. Much of that cost is borne by taxpayers.

Mathematical modeling suggested that paying people up to $5,000 a year could be cost effective, Dr. El-Sadr said, but $280 was settled on after a long, difficult debate.

Paying more than $280 at some clinics was not an option, she said; achieving statistical relevance would have meant signing up even more clinics. The study had already involved almost every H.I.V. patient in the Bronx and Washington.

“I don’t think anyone has an answer to what amount would be sufficient without being excessive,” Dr. El-Sadr said.

One advocate suggested that more money could work — in the right setting.

“In South Africa, $280 is a lot of money,” said Mitchell Warren, the executive director of AVAC, an organization that lobbies for AIDS prevention. “For that much, you’d definitely get some behavior change.”

The two studies among gay men looked at different ways to take pills. A 2010 American study, known as iPrEx, showed that taking Truvada — a combination of two antiretroviral drugs — worked if taken daily.

The British study, known as PROUD, used that dosing schedule, and men who took the pill daily were protected 86 percent of the time.

In the French trial, known as Ipergay, men were advised to take two pills in the two days before they anticipated having sex and two in the 24 hours afterward.

Those who took them correctly also got 86 percent protection.

“The problem,” Dr. Susan P. Buchbinder, director of H.I.V. prevention research for the San Francisco health department, said in a speech here commenting on the study, “is that studies have shown that men are very good at predicting when they will not have sex and not good at predicting when they will.”

The African study, known as FACTS 001, was a follow-up to the smaller trial from 2010, which showed that South African women who used a vaginal gel containing tenofovir, an antiviral drug, before and after sex were 39 percent better protected than women who did not.

But it also found that many women failed to use the gel because it was messy or inconvenient or because partners objected.

In this trial, there was virtually no effect.

One problem, said Dr. Helen Rees, the chief investigator, was that the women were very young — the median age was 23, and most lived with their parents or siblings.

“They had no privacy for sex,” she said. “They had to go outside to use the product.”

Mr. Warren, of AVAC, said: “The women wanted a product they could use. But this particular product didn’t fit into the realities of their daily lives.”

The development means that advocates are hoping even more that other interventions for women now in trials will work. They include long-lasting injections of antiretroviral drugs and vaginal rings that can be inserted once a month and leach the drugs slowly into the vaginal wall.

Another trial in Africa, the Partners Demonstration Project, conducted among couples in which one partner had H.I.V. and the other did not, found it was extremely effective to simultaneously offer treatment to the infected partner and preventive drugs to the uninfected one until the other’s drugs took full effect.

In the group getting the treatment, there were zero infections that could be traced to partners who were in the study.

Source: www.nytimes.com

Topics: drugs, virus, AIDS, study, health, research, health care, patients, medicine, treatment, infection, Money, HIV, cure

Health Care Opens Stable Career Path, Taken Mainly by Women

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Feb 23, 2015 @ 01:13 PM

For Tabitha Waugh, it was another typical day of chaos on the sixth-floor cancer ward.

The fire alarm was blaring for the second time that afternoon, prompting patients to stumble out of their rooms. One confused elderly man approached Ms. Waugh, a registered nurse at St. Mary’s Medical Center here, but she had no time to console him. An aide was shouting from another room, where a patient sat dazed on the edge of his bed, blood pooling on the floor from the IV he had yanked from his vein.

“Hey, big guy, can you lay back in bed?” she asked, as she cleaned the patient before inserting a new line. He winced. “Hold my hand, O.K.?” she said.

Ms. Waugh, who is 30 and the main breadwinner in her family of four, still had three hours to go before the end of a 12-hour shift. But despite the stresses and constant demands, all the hard work was paying off.

Her wage of nearly $27 an hour provides for a comfortable life that includes a three-bedroom home, a pickup truck and a new sport utility vehicle, tumbling classes for her 3-year-old, Piper, and dozens of brightly colored Thomas the Tank Engine cars heaped under the double bed of her 6-year-old, Collin.

The daughter of a teacher’s aide and a gas station manager, Ms. Waugh, like many other hard-working and often overlooked Americans, has secured a spot in a profoundly transformed middle class. While the group continues to include large numbers of people sitting at desks, far fewer middle-income workers of the 21st century are donning overalls. Instead, reflecting the biggest change in recent years, millions more are in scrubs.

“We used to think about the men going out with their lunch bucket to their factory, and those were good jobs,” said Jane Waldfogel, a professor at Columbia University who studies work and family issues. “What’s the corresponding job today? It’s in the health care sector.”

In 1980, 1.4 million jobs in health care paid a middle-class wage: $40,000 to $80,000 a year in today’s money. Now, the figure is 4.5 million.

The pay of registered nurses — now the third-largest middle-income occupation and one that continues to be overwhelmingly female — has risen strongly along with the increasing demands of the job. The median salary of $61,000 a year in 2012 was 55 percent greater, adjusted for inflation, than it was three decades earlier.

And it was about $9,000 more than the shriveled wages of, say, a phone company repairman, who would have been more likely to head a middle-class family in the 1980s. Back then, more than a quarter of middle-income jobs were in manufacturing, a sector long dominated by men. Today, it is just 13 percent.

As the job market has shifted, women, in general, have more skillfully negotiated the twists and turns of the new economy, rushing to secure jobs in health care and other industries that demand more education and training. Men, by contrast, have been less successful at keeping up.

In many working- and middle-class households, women now earn the bigger paycheck, work longer hours and have greater opportunities for career advancement. As a result, millions of American families are being reconfigured along with the economy.

“The culture still has traditional attitudes about who does what, who brings home the bacon and who scrambles the eggs,” said Isabel Sawhill, co-director of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution. “The economy is now out of sync with the culture, and I think that’s creating tensions within marriage.”

A New Springboard

At the Waughs’ house, it is T.J. Waugh, 33, who picks up the couple’s two children from the babysitter when he leaves his afternoon shift at a small plant in Huntington.

By the time Ms. Waugh arrives home in rural Salt Rock from her shift, often far later than her 7 p.m. quitting time, the children have been bathed and fed.

The house is usually messy. The bathroom walls are covered with scribbles from bath crayons; dirty clothes pile up. Ms. Waugh often jams six 12-hour shifts into one week, leaving little time for cleaning and laundry. Mr. Waugh mows the lawn and will run the vacuum cleaner now and then, and if there are no clean towels, Ms. Waugh will do a load of laundry. Otherwise, housework waits until she has a stretch of days off.

“I’m just really tired when I get home,” Ms. Waugh said.

Ms. Waugh is the keeper of the family’s books. That she out-earns her husband — a pipe fitter who hunts deer and plays men’s softball on the weekends — is an unspoken given.

“She doesn’t rub that in,” he said.

Without missing a beat, Ms. Waugh adds, “It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”

Most of the new jobs produced by America’s sprawling economy — especially since the turn of the century — are either in highly paid occupations that often require an advanced degree, or, more predominantly, in lower-paid positions providing direct services that cannot be sent overseas and, at least for now, are difficult to automate.

But even with a hollowing out of the job market and a broad stagnation in wages, an analysis by The New York Times has found, a set of occupations has emerged that holds promise as the base of a more robust middle class.

Many are in health care, which has grown sharply over the last few decades.

Economists at the Labor Department project that by 2022, as baby boomers age, health care and social assistance will absorb nearly 20 percent of consumer spending, double the share of manufactured goods. The sector is expected to support over 21 million jobs, five million more than today. This includes half a million more registered nurses.

A Rare Green Shoot

The reordering of the economic landscape can be seen all over West Virginia’s old coal country, where billboards along the highways that run through the region advertise a new cardiac center and an orthopedic clinic; and where a strip mall houses Scrubs Unlimited, a medical outfitter, its retail floor crammed with nursing uniforms in 38 colors and Peter Pan prints.

Hugging the Ohio River as it bends around the Appalachian foothills, Cabell County, which includes Huntington, has often found itself on the wrong side of economic change. The population — about 97,000 today — has shrunk 10 percent over the last three decades, as the old have died and many of the young have left.

The railroad that helps shuttle coal to Huntington, one of the nation’s busiest inland ports, is still a source of jobs. But manufacturing employment — once clustered at the long-gone glassmaking plants and furniture makers — has dwindled to fewer than 5,000 jobs. Recently, a 1920s-era nickel alloy plant laid off dozens of workers after a bankruptcy, a corporate acquisition and weak sales.

In real terms, wages in Cabell County now are lower than in the 1970s, stumbling along well below the national average. One in five residents lives in poverty.

The health care industry — which added 3,000 jobs here over the last 10 years — is one of the few green shoots in a struggling economy.

West Virginia has been battered by the same forces that have reshaped the nation since the late 1970s, when global competition, an overvalued dollar, declining unions and advanced technology began to undercut the jobs created during America’s industrial heyday, deepening income inequality. And since 2000, the share of middle-income workers has been squeezed and wages have stagnated.

Yet many of the jobs added in medical services here and across the nation have turned out to be surprisingly good ones.

That was what motivated the only male registered nurse colleague of Ms. Waugh’s on the sixth-floor cancer unit, Johnny Dial, a former highway construction worker and heavy equipment mechanic. More men are joining nursing, but they still make up only 10 percent of the ranks, compared with 4 percent in 1980.

As Mr. Dial contemplated supporting a family, it came down to health care or the railroad if he wanted job security and benefits. He chose what he thought would be a more fulfilling career, and the same one as his wife, who is also a nurse.

“You get to help people,” Mr. Dial said.

Women Stepped Up

Similar thinking was behind the career choices of Ms. Waugh’s fellow female R.N.s. They include a former waitress, a former journalist, an ex-administrator in a metals factory and a former store clerk at Bath & Body Works. In addition to the satisfaction of the work, they all said, the wages are generally better in health care than they could find in other fields.

Ms. Waugh has urged her husband to try to move up at his company, where he earns about $40,000 in regular wages, plus pay for occasional extra shifts, or to switch to a more lucrative career, maybe even in health care as a radiology technician.

But for Mr. Waugh, the only way up at the plant is to go into sales, a promotion he already turned down because he said he did not want to “deal with people.” He could earn more in the coal mines, but that work is dirty and dangerous.

Mr. Waugh has talked about trying college again; he dropped out twice in the past. At one point, his wife even filled out application papers for him to jump-start his re-enrollment, but he did not pursue class work.

“My philosophy is he is lazy,” Ms. Waugh said, standing in the hospital’s white hallway. “That’s what makes me so mad.”

For all the troubles associated with traditionally male jobs, women have not had an easy ride through the economic turmoil, either.

“The occupational structure has not somehow become more women-friendly,” said David Autor, an economist at M.I.T. who has studied the changing American job market. In fact, he added, “the hollowing out of middle-skill jobs was larger for women than for men.” The process intensified sharply during the financial crisis and the ensuing economic downturn.

But in general women have reacted much better, climbing the educational ladder to capture more of the better jobs. Today, 38 percent of women in their late 20s and early 30s have a college degree, compared with 15 percent 40 years ago. The completion rate for young men is now 7 percentage points lower than for women — back then it was 7 points higher.

This has given women an edge in the new job market: Today, almost 58 percent of registered nurses have a bachelor’s degree or more, compared with about a third in 1980.

This is true across the range of occupations capable of supporting a middle-class life. In 1980, 55 percent of workers who earned the equivalent of $40,000 to $80,000 in today’s dollars had at most a high school diploma, according to the analysis by The Times, which reviewed census returns for employed people ages 25 to 64. Only a quarter had a college degree. Today, the share of college graduates has risen to about 41 percent, while just under 31 percent have completed no more than high school.

“The days when a very, very substantial share of the work force would be able to make good middle-class incomes from jobs that did not require post-high school training are just not the case anymore,” said Francine D. Blau, an economics professor at Cornell University.

Men still hold most of the top jobs in the economy, including seven out of 10 jobs that pay over $80,000 a year. But women are rapidly moving up the ranks. Women hold 44 percent of middle-income jobs, compared with about a quarter 30 years ago.

These trends may not hold forever. Though educational attainment continues to rise for women, their progress in the workplace — in terms of both wages and jobs — has slowed significantly. Tighter controls on the cost of health care could weaken the job growth and pay raises helping support the new American middle. And while the industry is largely immune to foreign competition, it may be affected by advances in labor-saving technology.

Even as more women get ahead, many men are struggling to grab a handhold into higher-paying jobs. After her husband was laid off from a string of auto mechanic jobs, Donna Colbey, 53, urged him to switch careers and become a radiology technician.

It was a job Ms. Colbey knew would offer a good salary and require only two years of training. She had taken the same route, which eventually led her to a nursing career at a Washington hospital.

He enrolled in the courses but dropped out after a few months.

“He got tripped up over the math and didn’t go back,” said Ms. Colbey, who regularly picks up extra shifts to support her family.

A Relentless Pursuit

Far more is expected of nurses now than even two decades ago. Medical advances have kept patients alive longer, meaning many are sicker with more complex illnesses than in the past. Nurses must master technology that helps both treat and track patients, and they are called on to coordinate not just with doctors but also social workers and physical therapists.

At St. Mary’s Medical Center, Ms. Waugh, in her navy scrubs, fed potassium on a recent day into the vein of one woman with a broken hip who was on the cancer floor because of a lack of beds. She gave anti-nausea medicine to a moaning young man with liver cancer in the midst of chemotherapy and prepared pills for a half-dozen other patients, documenting it all on a computer.

An outpatient arrived for his regular blood-drawing and, squatting alongside him in a waiting room, Ms. Waugh unbuttoned his shirt and collected blood from an access port in his chest.

Ms. Waugh’s pursuit of learning to advance her career has been relentless. By her own count, she has been out of school for no longer than two years since kindergarten.

All that education has come with a cost. The couple has amassed about $50,000 in student debt. Ms. Waugh would like to send her children to a better school, but the $10,000 annual tuition that would require is out of reach. “I can’t save for their college and send them to private school,” she said.

To her husband’s co-workers who are raising families on pipe fitters’ salaries, the Waugh family is rich. Ms. Waugh’s purchase of a new Toyota S.U.V. raised eyebrows around the plant.

“We’re not wealthy,” Mr. Waugh said, “but we’re not poor.”

It hasn’t been easy getting to this point. As she made the rounds at the hospital, Ms. Waugh explained how her family was set back in 2008 after Collin was born. She stayed home for one year with the boy, who had digestive problems and required expensive formula. Living on just Mr. Waugh’s salary, they ran through their savings and they accumulated credit card debt that they are still paying off.

“That was a horrible financial situation,” Ms. Waugh said.

But later this year, when her classes and other course work are finished, Ms. Waugh will qualify as a nurse practitioner, a job that she expects will allow her to earn at least 50 percent more than her current salary. And she will be prepared, she believes, for almost anything to come.

“I knew if I was a nurse I could be self-sufficient,” she said, “and wouldn’t have to rely on anyone to take care of me.”

Source: www.nytimes.com

Topics: jobs, women, hire, nursing, health, healthcare, RN, nurse, nurses, health care, hospital, patient, Money, career, Americans, pay, wages, middle-class

Violence Intervention Programs 'Could Save Hospitals Millions'

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Jan 28, 2015 @ 10:46 AM

Written by James McIntosh

man receiving therapy from a therapist with clipboard resized 600

While violence intervention programs have demonstrated that they can be an effective way of preventing violent injury, little has been known about their financial implications. A new study now suggests that these interventions could save various sectors millions of dollars.

Researchers from Drexel University have analyzed the cost-benefit ratio of hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs) and report that - as well as benefiting victims' lives - HVIPs can make costs savings of up to $4 million over a 5-year period in the health care and criminal justice sectors.

"This is the first systematic economic evaluation of a hospital-based violence intervention program, and it's done in a way that can be replicated as new evidence emerges about the programs' impacts across different sectors," states lead author Dr. Jonathan Purtle.

As a major cause of disability, premature mortality and other health problems worldwide, HVIPs have a crucial role to play in helping victims from experiencing further suffering.

The provision of case-management and counseling from combinations of medical professionals and social workers has been associated with not only reducing rates of aggressive behavior and violent re-injury but also improving education, employment and health care utilization for service users.

Many HVIPs still require a sustainable source of funding

Intervention typically begins in the period immediately after a violent injury has been sustained. Not only is this a critical moment in terms of physical health, but it can also be a time when victims may start thinking about retaliation or making changes in their lives.

"The research literature has poetically referred to the time after a traumatic injury as the 'golden hour,'" says study co-author Dr. Ted Corbin.

In 2009, around six programs were in operation and, as word of their success has spread, more and more HVIPs have been initiated.

Calculating the potential financial benefits of HVIPs is crucial, as for many of these programs a stable and sustainable source of funding does not exist. Instead, many rely on a variety of different financial sources such as insurance billing, institutional funding, local government funding and private grants.

For the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the researchers conducted a cost-benefit analysis simulation in order to estimate what savings an HVIP could make over 5 years in a hypothetical population of 180 violently injured patients. Of these, 90 would receive HVIP intervention and 90 would not.

Costs, rates of violent re-injury and violent perpetration incidents that a population would be estimated to experience were calculated by the authors using data from 2012.

The authors made a comparison between the estimated costs of outcomes that would most likely be experienced by the 90 hypothetical patients receiving HVIP intervention - including $350,000 per year costs of the HVIP itself - and the costs of outcomes predicted for 90 patients not receiving any HVIP intervention.

The net benefit of the interventions

A total of four different simulation models were constructed by the researchers to estimate net savings and cost-benefit ratios, and three different estimates of HVIP effect size were used.

Costs that were factored into the simulations included health care costs for re-injury, costs to the criminal justice system if the victims then became perpetrators and societal costs for potential loss of productivity.

Each simulation calculated that HVIPs produced cost savings over the course of 5 years. The simulation model that only included future health costs for the 90 individuals and their potential re-injury produced savings of $82,765. The simulation model including all costs incurred demonstrated savings of over $4 million.

Dr. Purtle acknowledges that estimated lost productivity costs may have been slightly high due to an assumption in their data that all individuals in the simulation were employed. However, he believes that there are also many social benefits to HVIPs that cannot be financially quantifiable:

"Even if the intervention cost a little more than it saved in dollars and cents to the health care system, there would still be a net benefit in terms of the violence it prevented."

The authors believe that the findings of their study could be useful in informing public policy decisions. By demonstrating that HVIPs can be financially beneficial, the study suggests that an investment in HVIPs is one that pays off for everyone concerned.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: injury, violence, intervention, programs, financial, victims, saving money, nursing, health, healthcare, nurse, nurses, doctors, medical, patients, hospital, treatment, Money

Caring for those with autism runs $2M-plus for life

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Jun 11, 2014 @ 01:05 PM

By Karen Weintraub

1402342734000 family

The parents of children with autism often have to cut back on or quit work, and once they reach adulthood, people on the autism spectrum have limited earning potential.

Those income losses, plus the price of services make autism one of the costliest disabilities – adding $2.4 million across the lifespan if the person has intellectual disabilities and $1.4 million if they don't, according to a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

"We've known for a long time autism is expensive, but we've really never had data like this to show us the full magnitude of the issue," said Michael Rosanoff, associate director of public health research for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which funded the research. "These are on top of the costs to care for a typically developing individual."

Jackie Marks knows the problem firsthand. The Staten Island, N.Y., mom has 13-year-old triplets, all on the spectrum and all with intellectual deficits.

Everything about their care costs more money, she says, from the diapers and wipes she still has to buy to the specially trained babysitters she has to hire every time she wants to go out. For karate classes, she has to pay for one-on-one lessons; the therapist helping with social skills costs $150 an hour per child.

"I enjoy my children immensely," Marks said. "I have a wonderful husband. That, at the end of the day makes it all worth it. But is it like a typical experience? No."

Marks quit her job with the state as a bank auditor to care for Tyler, Dylan, and Jacob. Her husband's job not only has to cover day-to-day needs, but he has to put away enough money to pay for both her and the boys after he retires. She hopes the boys will be able to work someday, but they'll never have the kind of earnings that will sustain them, she said, and will probably receive modest Social Security benefits once they turn 18.

Four things need to change to bring down the cost of autism for families and society, according to David Mandell, director of research for the Center for Mental Health Policy and Services at the University of Pennsylvania.

Adults on the spectrum need more job opportunities. There are many small success stories of individuals or small groups of people with autism who are employed, but "we need to be more creative about thinking about employment on a large scale," Mandell said.

Adult care must be improved so only people who really need expensive residential care get it, and everyone else can find support in their own community, he said. "I think in too many cases, these residential settings represent a failure of our society to provide community-based, cheaper options," he said. "More flexible, cheaper options would be a way to bring these costs down."

Families with autism need more opportunities to stay in the workplace. "Issues that face autism ultimately face all families," Mandell said. "If we had more family-friendly workplace policies, we might see substantial change in the way families were able to manage the work-life balance when they had children with (all kinds of) disabilities."

Society needs to take the long view, he said. Spending money diagnosing and helping young children on the spectrum will probably save money when they are older, by reducing disability and improving employability. "We often talk about the cost of care, and we don't spend much time talking about the cost of not caring," he said.

NUMBERS:

•Cost of supporting someone with an autism spectrum disorder plus intellectual disability: $2.4 million in the USA and 1.5 million pounds in the United Kingdom ($2.2 million in U.S. dollars)

•Cost of supporting someone with an autism spectrum disorder but no intellectual disability: $1.4 million in the USA and .92 million pounds in the United Kingdom ($1.4 million)

Source: usatoday.com


Topics: healthcare, Money, care, autism

How Many Patients Does One Nurse Treat: Ballot Question On Staffing

Posted by Alycia Sullivan

Fri, Aug 23, 2013 @ 11:31 AM

by Carrie Tian 

“Just Ask!” That’s the slogan for a new campaign by the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). The union is encouraging people to ask how many other patients their nurses will be treating that day. The slogan is meant to draw awareness to what the nurses union sees as a growing disconnect between the profit-driven healthcare industry and the quality care of its patients.

Alex E. Proimos/flickr

The campaign’s goal is to enact minimum mandatory staffing levels, capping the number of patients per nurse. After a similar measure failed to pass the state legislature in 2008, the MNA wants to take the issue directly to voters through a ballot initiative. The union has submitted the text of the Patient Safety Act to the Attorney General’s Office; the act’s terms include limiting nurses to having up to four patients in surgical units and in emergency rooms. Once approved, the union will need to collect 70,000 signatures by November for the Patient Safety Act to appear on the 2014 ballot.

Currently, California is the only state that has mandated nurse-patient ratios. However, this topic may well seem familiar to Mass. voters: state nurses have sought staffing legislation since 1995, and 2011 saw fraught contract negotiations between Tufts Medical Center and its nurses. CommonHealth analyzed how Tufts’ lower nurse ratio affected patient care.

Lynn Nicholas, president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, alluded to the idea’s long history by calling the current initiative petition a “repeat of an arcane idea that has no merit” in a statement. She said that patients would be better served by having decisions about their care made on a case-by-case basis. Her reactions echoed those of  Michael Sack, President and CEO of Hallmark Health, who wrote an earlier guest post on CommonHealth. “This cookie-cutter approach would completely take away a hospital’s ability to tailor care to specific patient needs,” Sack wrote.

Source: WBUR CommonHealth

Topics: nursing, Boston, staffing, Medicine/Science, Money, Politics, nurses union, practicing medicine

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