Bill On Nurse Staffing Levels To Go Before State Senate Panel Monday

NJBIZ — Friday, February 6, 2015

By Beth Fitzgerald

The state Senate health committee has scheduled a hearing Monday afternoon in Trenton on a bill to create minimum nurse staffing level in hospitals, ambulatory surgery facilities, developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals.

The bill, S1183 is sponsored by state Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge), chair of the Senate health committee.

The bill would require one registered professional nurse for every six patients on a medical/surgical unit for the first year after the regulations are adopted, and one nurse for every five patients thereafter. The bill also establishes minimum nurse staffing for other clinical areas, such a trauma units, surgery and maternity.

The state Department of Health currently requires hospitals "to have and use a patient acuity system (based on patient level of illness) to determine the number of nurses per shift," said Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the DOH.

She said that, on certain units, such as the intensive care unit, DOH rules require specific nurse/patient ratios. Leusner said the DOH reviews staffing numbers when it does complaint investigations.

The bill specifies that it would not result in the reduction of any state nurse staffing rules that are currently in place.

The state's largest nurses' union Health Professionals and Allied Employees, said it plans to testify at the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Monday. HPAE said testimony is expected from members of the Coalition for Patient Safety and Safe Staffing, including: Jersey Nurses Economic Security Organization, New Jersey Citizen Action and the Communications Workers of America.

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