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Arizona Patient Protection Act Introduced
Date:1/4/2008

HB 2041 Sets Safe Nurse-to-Patient Staffing Ratios, Ability for Nurses to

Advocate for Urgent Patient Safety Measures

PHOENIX, Jan. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Arizona registered nurse leaders today announced the historic introduction of major legislation to make Arizona hospitals safer for patients and strengthen the ability of RNs to expose unsafe conditions and advocate for patient protections.

HB 2041, the Arizona Patient Protection Act, is sponsored by House member Tom Prezelski at the request of the National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association.

Introduction of the bill was greeted by nurses across the state who have voiced increasing alarm about the erosion of care conditions in Arizona hospitals that they say put patients at risk and fan the nursing shortage as many RNs will no longer work in unsafe hospitals.

Among its major provisions, the Act:

-- Mandates minimum, specific RN-to-patient staffing ratios which are

widely seen by nurses and health care experts to be the most effective

standard for safer nursing care and for promoting the retention and

recruitment of RNs.

-- Whistleblower protection for RNs who report unsafe hospital conditions

or for refusing unsafe patient care assignments.

-- Legal recognition of the right of RNs to act as advocates for their

patients rather than for the economic interests of their hospital

employer.

"Hospitals have a responsibility to staff properly in order for nurses to provide quality care for patients. Hospitals aren't doing that," said Diane Baker, an RN at Flagstaff Medical Center. "The Arizona Patient Protection Act requires staffing levels, at all times, based on the acuity of the patient. This will save lives and allow us to provide the care that our fellow Arizonians deserve."

"A legal mandate is the safest way to establish staffing ratios and real whistleblower protection for nurses," said Phoenix metro RN Lindy Abts. "I know many nurses have left hospitals because of the staffing ratios; those same nurses have said they would return if ratios were safe for patients and for themselves."

"I have been a nurse since 1993 and have worked in different hospitals in Arizona. I know that when I worked in a Skilled Nursing unit inside of a hospital, I was assigned up to 25 patients on the night shift," said Kirk Herbert, RN at Yavapai Regional Medical Center.

"On many occasions I had a patient developed a life threatening complication. While I cared for this patient, the other 24 patients would end up with delayed care. With better staffing ratios, patients would receive better care and the life that is saved might be yours," Herbert said.

"The nursing care hospitalized patients need is increasingly complex. In Arizona, mandated nurse-to-patient ratios would improve the nurses' ability to safely care for patients according to their individual needs," said Tucson Medical Center, RN Jane Black.

The APPA's ratios are modeled after the successful 1999 law in California that was strengthened again on January 1. Ratios differ by hospital area, such as a minimum of no less than one RN for every five patients in general medical or post-surgical care units, 1:4 in pediatrics, and 1:4 in emergency rooms. The ratios are a floor, not a ceiling, with hospitals also required to increase registered nurse staffing as needed based on individual patient illness or acuity.

"California's ratios are a spectacular success story," said Zenei

Cortez, RN, member of the NNOC/CNA Council of Presidents. "Under our ratio law, lives are being saved, our ability to be effective advocates for our patients is stronger, and more RNs are entering the work force and staying at the bedside longer mitigating the nursing shortage."

Since the law was signed, 80,000 more licensed RNs have come into California's workforce.

In addition to Arizona, NNOC/CNA members are promoting similar bills in Illinois, Maine, Ohio, and Texas, and working with the Massachusetts Nurses Association on a proposed ratio law in their state. "RNs across the nation have seen the future, and the enormous benefits of this law. They know it works for patients, nurses, and communities," said Cortez.

About NNOC/CNA

The National Nurses Organizing Committee, founded by the California Nurses Association, is a national movement for registered nurses with some 80,000 members from California to Maine.


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SOURCE The National Nurses Organizing Committee
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
All rights reserved

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