National Nurses United

National Nurse Magazine June 2012

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NEWS BRIEFS TIOS RA SEIU Local Teams Up with Hospital Industry to Attack California���s Ratio Law I CALIFORNIA t���s not enough to win and have something. You have to fight like hell to protect and defend it. California RNs got a startling reminder of that truism in June when the president of another healthcare union teamed up with the California Hospital Association (CHA), the hospital industry���s lobbying group, in a surprise attack to undermine the state���s landmark safe staffing law which sets maximum RN-to-patient ratios. Their goal was to suspend the ratio law during meals and breaks for RNs, which, as any RN understands, essentially guts the law. On June 14, Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers asked the California Labor Federation, an important umbrella group for many of the state���s unions, to ���go neutral��� on any proposed legislation to suspend the ratio law during meals and breaks for two years. He also had 4 N AT I O N A L N U R S E some of SEIU-UHW���s local members pay visits to legislators to seek backing for such a bill. Regan essentially argued on behalf of the hospital association that nurses needed to sacrifice their meals and breaks and the safety of their patients to help hospitals save $400 million because the state was in a budget crisis. Yet most hospitals in California are privately owned and state records show they collectively posted $4.4 billion in profits in 2010 alone. The labor federation voted 60-2 to defeat Regan���s proposal, but registered nurses across the country went on high alert when news about Regan���s maneuverings went public because they know that any effort to weaken the law is the first step toward dismantling it entirely. The California Nurses Association, the NNU affiliate which sponsored the law, has repeatedly had to ward off attacks by the hospital industry and state officials to undermine the law since it was passed in 1999 and implemented in 2004. In 2004, just before ratios went into effect, the state hospital association filed a W W W. N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G lawsuit targeting the law���s requirement that hospitals needed to be in compliance with ratios at all times, specifically during nurses��� breaks. The association lost that suit, with the judge writing in her opinion that any ���other interpretation would make the nurseto-patient ratios meaningless.��� Later that year, at the bidding of the hospital association, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an emergency order to roll back key portions of the ratio law. In response, California nurses hounded Schwarzenegger with more than 100 protests and also filed suit against his actions. He both backed down and lost the suit, with a court finding that he had acted illegally in issuing the executive order. ���California RNs, with the support of patients, have fought long and hard to implement and defend this vital law against repeated attacks by hospitals all too ready to abandon patient safety for their bottom line,��� said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association. ���This latest, unprincipled attack, will also fail.��� When CNA and NNU sent out the national call to RNs asking them to take action to defend the ratio law, many wrote back stressing the importance of ratios and that they be in effect around the clock, without exceptions. Lifting ratio requirements during meals and breaks effectively means that nurses will unsafely have their patient loads doubled, as supervisors ask them to ���buddy up��� with a coworker. Since many dedicated RNs are unwilling to risk the safety of their patients, this means that they will forego their meals and breaks entirely and, consequently, the time to regroup that they need to stay sharp, fed, and rested on the job. One of the comments to a Huffington Post article about the attack, by a nurse in a state without mandated staffing ratios, said that when she is forced to double up on assignments when a colleague goes on break, she is so scared. ���I find myself PRAYING for the nurse I am covering to return; it is UNSAFE to have 10+ patients to be responsible for, for even a short time,��� she wrote. To sign the petition to defend California���s ratio law and for more information, please visit page/speakout/reject-the-attack-oncalifornia-rn-ratios. ���Staff report JUNE 2012

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