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Nurse Staffing Ballot Question Will Have Devastating Impact on Lawrence General Hospital

Lawrence, MA—Lawrence General Hospital today announced the negative impacts that mandated nurse staffing ratios would have on its viability and capability to provide safe, quality care to patients in the region. Slated to be Question 1 on the ballot this November, these rigid staffing ratios will devastate community hospitals and behavioral health facilities across Massachusetts.

"The safety and health of our community is the top priority for Lawrence General,” said Dianne Anderson RN, CEO and president of Lawrence General Hospital. “Question 1 will force us to downsize departments, increase wait times in our emergency room, threaten scheduling of elective surgeries, and cut important health programs that our patients depend on. The last thing we want to do is have our patients wait because this law ties our hands and keeps us from giving them timely service."

The enormous costs associated with the nurse staffing ballot question will set Lawrence General back approximately $7.9 million initially with an additional revenue loss of $12 million, resulting in possible bed closures and cuts to both clinical and community health programs.

In order to comply with the massive costs associated with the rigid ratios included in Question 1, emergency room wait times will increase, as patients will be forced to wait for openings in nurses’ assignments mandated by the proposed law. According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, Question 1 will cost Massachusetts’ health care system $1.3 billion in the first year, and $900 million every year thereafter. This added expense will be passed on to hospitals, impacting both access to care and the cost.

If passed, the ballot question would require that hospitals across the state to adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times, regardless of the needs of patients or the skills and experience of the nursing team. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major Boston teaching hospitals.

"There are numerous factors that go into deciding how to staff a unit," said Diane Coletta, RN, a nurse at Lawrence General for more than 40 years. "Nurse staffing should be approached collaboratively by nurses, not by government mandate."

The ballot question is opposed by the American Nurses Association – Massachusetts; Emergency Nurses Association - Massachusetts Chapter; Organization of Nurse Leaders; Infusion Nurses Society; Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing; Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ Greater Boston Chapter; the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative; the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians; the Massachusetts Medical Society; the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association; the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals; the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals; and other health care and business leaders across the state.

"There are no scientific studies or reports that demonstrate the effectiveness of government mandated, one-size-fits-all nurse staffing ratio for improving quality of care, patient outcomes or professional nursing practice,” said Donna Glynn, president of the American Nurses Association and a Nurse Scientist for the VA Boston Healthcare System. “In fact, no studies evaluating nurse staffing ratios reported a magic number as the single factor to affect patient outcomes or job satisfaction. This ballot question is ignoring scientific fact around what is best for nursing practice, decision making and quality patient care."

Lawrence General Hospital is a regional, independent, nonprofit hospital. Serving almost 262,000 of our neighbors annually, Lawrence General ensures access to the high-quality care, the latest technologies, and approximately 600 local providers, including primary care and many specialties, delivering caring and personalized treatment. A designated Level III Trauma Center, Lawrence General has one of the busiest Emergency Departments in Massachusetts, offers a broad range of specialty surgeries in its new Santagati Center for surgery, and leads the region in cardiac care with its highly accredited cardiovascular center. It has clinical affiliations with Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. It offers services from its main campus in Lawrence, as well as from locations in Andover, North Andover, and Methuen, MA and Salem, NH. For more information, visit www.lawrencegeneral.org.

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