A recent press release from the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee announced a protest to take place over a dangerous patient care proposal. The group will picket the UCSF hospital on June 10, asserting that administrators should withdraw a proposal to increase patient loads for nurses by 25 to 100 percent. The CNA/NNOC has called the proposal a ?dangerous and frightening? reduction in medical resources.
UCSF has long refused to schedule ?break relief nurses? who care for patients when bedside RNs take their legally-mandated meal and rest breaks. Unrest comes over the administration's new proposal to solve this issue: by pulling one nurse per shift in every unit of the adult hospital and reassigning them as dedicated break relief nurses.
The practical effects of this policy would be to increase the workload of UCSF nurses. For medical-surgical unit nurses, this could mean a patient load increase of four to five per hour, a 25 percent increase. For ICU nurses, the percentage of patients could increase 100 percent from one patient to two per hour, which is unreasonable, as critical patients require the undivided attention of a nurse.
The CNA/NNOC sited a study done by the Agency for Health Research and Quality in mid 2007 which highlighted the faults of this approach to staffing. The study found that for each patient assigned to a nurse (over four patients) caused a 7 percent increase in the chance of patient mortality, as well as a 53 percent increase in chance of respiratory failure, and a 17 percent increase in chance for medical complications.
?UCSF administration has ignored state law that requires patients to have adequate nursing care at all times, including when their bedside nurse is on their breaks. Rather than solving this staffing issue, UCSF is instead forcing through staffing cuts that will place our patients in grave danger. We cannot allow these staffing cuts to happen,? said Maureen Dugan, RN on 13 Long, a medical-surgical unit caring for patients recovering from abdominal, urologic or head and neck surgery.
?UCSF is a unique hospital because we receive some of the sickest patients from around the world. It is imperative that our patient safety procedures and our nurse staffing reflect this,? said Brady Logue, RN on 9 Long, the unit caring for post-surgical patients after kidney, liver, or pancreas transplant surgery.
UCSF was recently fined $50,000 by the California Department of Public Health for two separate incidents in which patients were placed in immediate jeopardy, and resulted in one patient death. These penalties are the highest allowed by state law for patient care violations. It is thus clear that while America's current economic recession is hitting hospitals, it is important to maintain an adequate nursing staff to at least adequately meet patient care needs.