Nurses Call on Hospital Industry to Protect Patients, Comply With New Safe Staffing Law

LOS ANGELES -- Nurses and other healthcare professionals called on hospitals to comply with the letter and spirit of California's safe patient care staffing law at a rally in front of the California Healthcare Association's office in downtown Los Angeles today.

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation's largest union of nurses and other healthcare professionals, will ask the hospital association to advise its members to obey the new law and protect patients instead of making excuses about how they won't be able to comply with the law.

They will also announce SEIU's plan to grade hospitals on their readiness between now and January 1, 2004, the day the safe staffing law goes into effect.

"The time for comments is over, and the countdown to safe ratios begins today," said Luisa Blue, RN, president of the SEIU Nurse Alliance. "The public needs to know that the hospital industry's excuses about why they can't follow the law continues to put patients at risk."

Over the past four years, members of the California Healthcare Association have complained about the state's attempts to set safer staffing ratios, citing a nursing shortage. CHA alleges that hospitals or hospital units will be forced to close, and that patients will be turned away. Yet, Kaiser Permanente, America's largest not-for-profit healthcare provider, has already begun hiring more nurses to meet the safer ratios by January.

"I'm tired of the hospital industry's excuses," said Debbie Pendergraft, RN at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center. "There's not a shortage of nurses. There's a shortage of nurses who want to work under these conditions. We need to start working together now to staff up so we're ready in January."

Of the nearly 2.7 million registered nurses in America today, only 1.3 million are practicing in hospitals. Nurses assert that the new staffing ratios will help bring that other half back into hospital nursing and attract young people to the profession.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the nation's largest union for nurses and other health care professionals. More than 755,000 health care professionals, including 110,000 nurses, are SEIU members nationwide.

Source: SEIU