Battle over nurse staffing ballot question heating up in Massachusetts

BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts Question 1, a nurse-patient assignment limits initiative, has created a divide among voters as the November election draws near.

The battle over the proposed law, which would limit the number of patients that can be assigned to nurses at hospitals and health clinics, is heating up.

Donna Kelly-Williams, of the Mass. Nurses Association, is in favor of Question 1 because she feels maintaining safety in the workplace is paramount.

“We need to have the amount of staff needed to care for our patients safely,” she said.

The association claims hospital executives haven’t listened when nurses have asked for more help, so they’ve taken it to the voters.

“We’re there in the hospital to make sure that your care is as safe as we can possibly do it,” Kelly-Williams added. “That’s why we have asked hospitals to look at this problem of not having enough people in place to take care of our patients.”

Opponents argue approving Question 1 would hurt their ability to devote resources in a busy emergency room.

Scott Weiner, President at Mass. College of Emergency Physicians, feels it would create longer wait times in emergency rooms and force hospitals to close.

“As written, Question 1 will bankrupt and close hospitals, and absolutely negatively impact the care of our patients,” he said.

Martha Rafferty, Director of Emergency Services at Emerson Hospital, believes hiring nurses while there’s a staffing shortage is the wrong answer.

“On top of the vacancies, taking on inexperienced nurses into acute care settings quite frankly sets up a patient for risk,” she said.

Gov. Charlie Baker said he plans to vote “No” on Question 1, citing a report from a non-partisan watchdog group that found the measure could cost the state’s health care system more than $900 million a year.

“It will put community hospitals, psych facilities, and emergency departments, nursing homes, and rehab homes around the Commonwealth in real jeopardy,” he said.

The general election in Massachusetts will be held on Nov. 6.

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