Make hospital stays safer

Make hospital stays safer


A bill pending in Albany will help ensure better nurse-to-patient ratios at all hospitals and nursing homes in New York State. That’s a very good thing. Bill A01532, which is known as the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, has bipartisan support and is presently sitting in committee in both the Assembly and the Senate. 

Let’s get this bill on the books—stat.

If approved, the bill establishes a minimum ratio of licensed nurses to patients and that number could change based on the needs of the patients in a particular unit. It does not include ancillary staff, either. It also says that nurses will not be responsible for more patients than what is dictated in the ratio and any hospital that violates that law will face penalties. The hospitals must also disclose these staffing levels to the public, maintain staffing records, and as the law is written, “require[s] every such facility to submit a documented staffing plan to the department on an annual basis and upon application for an operating certificate.” 

Here’s a sampling of proposed nurse-to-patient staffing ratios: Trauma emergency: 1:1; operating room: 1:1; intensive care: 1:2; post anesthesia care: 1:2; newborn nursery: 1:3; well baby nursery: 1:6; pediatrics: 1:3; medical-surgical: 1-4; acute psychiatric care: 1-4; and rehabilitation and sub-acute: 1:5.

In 2004, California enacted a similar law, the only other state to do so. There have been opposing views published on the results of that new policy; nurses unions indicate that the results have only been positive while surveys generated by hospital administration indicate that there had been no change in the quality of patient care. However, an article published in 2015 by the Economic Policy Institute ( said that while no official consensus has been reached, it noted, “Studies have shown that the law has improved patient care in a variety of domains.”

Look, quality care is the first line of defense with any illness. It stands to reason that overworked nurses who are on the front line of that care cannot properly address all of the needs of the sick when they are split between too many patients. So in that case, it makes a whole lot of sense to provide a mandate to help prevent that from happening.