Hospital Inspections Under Fire as California Lawmakers Pass Bill for Tougher Enforcement

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted April 30 to pass the Safe Ratios Enforcement Act (SB1005). SB1005, sponsored by the SEIU Nurse Alliance and authored by state Senator Joe Dunn, would overhaul existing hospital inspections and patient safety enforcement conducted by the California Department of Health Services (DHS).

The Safe Ratios Enforcement Act is expected to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee. SB1005 would provide effective enforcement of minimum safe staffing levels that all hospitals in California are required by law to implement by January 2004, as well as existing patient care regulations. At present, the DHS is not required to inspect for hospitals' compliance with new nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. The new minimum ratios would be enforced only if a specific complaint is made.

"Setting minimum safe staffing levels for hospitals is a good first step to protect our patients, but we need to do more," said Glenda Canfield, RN, policy director for the SEIU Nurse Alliance. "Without effective enforcement of the new nurse-to-patient ratios, unsafe staffing that endangers patients in many California hospitals will continue to put patients at risk."

"At my hospital and at others, management doubles up staffing while the inspectors are there. The hospital adds flowers and hires a hotel cleaning company to come in and pretty up the place," testified SEIU Nurse Alliance member Grace Corse, RN. "SB1005 requires unannounced hospital inspections so that these games can't be played any more."

The California Healthcare Association has opposed SB 1005 because it would provide "personnel to inspect hospitals to assure they are meeting ratios that they [the hospitals] cannot possibly meet." The hospital industry's position plainly states hospitals' intent to break California's safe nurse staffing law and avoid getting caught breaking it.

The 110,000-member SEIU Nurse Alliance is America's largest nurse union. It is part of the 1.5 million-member Service Employees International Union, California and the nation's largest and fastest-growing health care union.

Source: SEIU Nurse Alliance