HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) — Tuesday, dozens of nurses and advocates rallied at the state Capitol for the “Patient Safety Act.” The House Health Committee held a hearing on the legislation earlier today, which would limit the number of patients for nurses.
House Bill 106, the Patient Safety Act, would establish a minimum nurse to patient ratio for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Advocates say it is absolutely necessary to address the poor conditions and burdens facing many nurses.
“They felt overworked. They felt stressed. They felt unsafe in their working environments. They didn’t trust their administrators. And they’re like, I can’t do this, I’m leaving,” said Eileen Kelly, a former nurse from Sheffield, Pa.
Kelly says she, like many others, could not continue working in what she calls unsafe conditions, both for nurses and their patients.
“We were responsible for way too many patients that any one nurse could safely manage. We don’t have a shortage of nurses, but we do have a shortage of nurses that are willing to work in unsafe conditions,” said Kelly, who believes the patient Safety Act is the solution.
“This will save lives, save money and be the answer to the workforce crisis we have right now in health care with nurses,” said Kelly.
But opponents are concerned about the mandated ratio and the thousands of dollars in penalties for failure to comply.
“Unfortunately, what this bill would do is mandate a certain ratio of nurses in a hospital,” said Representative Kathy Rapp (R-Warren/Crawford/Forest), the Republican Chair of the House Health Committee.
Rapp says it poses a threat to many hospitals that might not be able to meet the ratio, especially in rural areas.
“I want more nurses in our hospitals, but I don’t want to see our hospitals fined to the point where they have to close beds, and possibly close their door,” said Rapp.
Advocates argue HB 106 could save hospitals money.
“Countless studies have shown that safer staffing levels correlate directly to better quality of care and patient outcomes,” said Robert Williams, a registered nurse from Northeast PA. “One University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing study in 2021 estimated that the savings due to fewer readmissions and shorter lengths of hospital stays is about $70 million, more than twice what the safe nurse staffing levels would cost,” Williams added.