On Wednesday, Dec. 4, a delegation of MNA nurses and patient advocates from across the state held a press conference outside the Massachusetts State House and then immediately went on to deliver nearly 200,000 ballot-related signatures to the Secretary of State. The conference and signature delivery were in support of two ballot initiatives: one that will dramatically improve patient safety in Massachusetts hospitals by setting a safe maximum limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time and another that will ensure that taxpayer health care dollars are dedicated exclusively to patient care and needed community-based hospital services.
Following brief remarks about these initiatives, which were offered by both RNs and patients, nurses attending the conference wheeled the signatures from the State House over to One Ashburton Place on a hospital gurney while the RNs chanted, “What do we want? Safe limits! When do we want them? Now!”
Once at Ashburton Place, the nurses submitted the signatures to the Secretary of State’s office, thereby completing a key step in the process of placing these initiatives on the ballot for 2014.
“For years the nurses of Massachusetts, joined by more than 100 other advocacy organizations, have been pushing the public-policy ‘call button’ for legislative action on the issue of safe patient limits,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, RN and President of the MNA. “That is why we are here today: to take the next step in getting registered voters to say ‘yes’ to safe maximum patient limits so that when their loved ones push that call button, a nurse is there.”
Summary of the Two Ballot Questions
The Patient Safety Act – Safe Patient Limits Will Save Lives: Advocates have gathered and will submit more than 114,000 signatures for the Patient Safety Act, a ballot initiative that will set a safe maximum limit on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at one time, while also providing maximum flexibility to hospitals to adjust nurses’ patient assignments based on the specific needs of the patients. The filing of the initiative follows the release of dozens of prominent research studies and reports that show beyond any doubt the need to set a maximum limit on the number of patients that can be assigned to each registered nurse at one time if we are to avoid -- mistakes, serious complications and preventable readmissions. To view these studies and to learn more about the initiative, visit PatientSafetyAct.com.
The Hospital Profit Transparency and Fairness Act: Advocates have gathered and will submit more than 100,000 signatures in support of the Hospital Profit Transparency and Fairness Act, a ballot initiative that that will require hospitals to be transparent about their financial holdings and other activities, limit CEO compensation and limit and claw back excess profits to ensure that taxpayer dollars are dedicated exclusively to safe patient care and necessary services for all communities in the Commonwealth.
This measure has been proposed to respond to dramatic changes within the hospital industry driven by state and national health care reform, including the merger, consolidation and conversion of non-profit hospitals into larger multi-billion dollar corporate networks. Every hospital, whether it's nonprofit or for profit, gets a substantial amount of money from public funds - i.e., the taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid - to provide health care for the residents of the Commonwealth, yet there is no way for the public and policy makers to accurately understand how those taxpayer dollars are being allocated.. The purpose of the initiative is to claw back taxpayer monies from hospitals that hoard an excessive amount of their revenues (including revenues stashed in off shore accounts) or pay excessive compensation to their CEO instead of using that money to provide health care services to underfunded hospitals, many of which are in danger of closing entire departments, and services. For more information on this measure visit: http://www.massnurses.org/news-and-events/p/openItem/8579.
Karen Higgins, RN, former MNA president, and current co-president of the NNU, addressed the Transparency and Fairness Act. “Every hospital, whether it's nonprofit or for profit, gets, on average, 60 percent of its money from public funds, namely the taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care for the residents of the Commonwealth,” she explained. “Yet there is no way for the public and policy makers to accurately understand how those taxpayer dollars are being allocated. This initiative is needed to ensure that the public and the communities served by these hospitals have a clear picture of the financial health of the hospitals that serve their needs. Furthermore, it will serve to ensure that patients are getting the care they need with the resources that are available to these hospital administrators.”
“These signatures have been placed on a hospital gurney to symbolize the fact that patients in our hospitals are suffering every day because of the failure of the hospital industry to provide the safe care our patients deserve,” added Kelly-Williams. “It is interesting to note that while we have gathered over 100,000 signatures in support of this initiative, a recent study published in the September issue of the Patient Safety Journal found that as many as four times that number, an alarming 400,000 patients a year die in our nation’s hospitals due to preventable medical errors.”
Several news organizations were on hand to cover the day’s events, including TV 22 Springfield, the AP, and State House news service.
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