Rep. K.C. Tomlinson (R-Bucks) will introduce legislation with Rep. Tom Mehaffie (R-Dauphin) to establish safe patient limits under the care of an individual nurse in Pennsylvania hospitals. The legislation will be known as the Patient Safety Act.
“The Patient Safety Act has long been needed,” Tomlinson said. “My predecessor, now Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo, was very passionate about this legislation and in the era of COVID-19, the need has never been clearer. Nurses have been on the front lines in a battle against this horrific pandemic, putting their lives on the line every day to care for the people of their communities.”
According to studies, in hospitals with high patient-to-nurse ratios, nurses experience burnout and dissatisfaction, and the patients experience higher mortality and failure-to-rescue rates than facilities with lower patient-to-nurse ratios. This results in nearly 300 surgical patient deaths per year in Pennsylvania.
According to a 2017 study in the American Journal of Infection Control, Pennsylvania hospitals in which burnout was reduced by 30 percent had a total of 6,239 fewer infections, for an annual cost savings of up to $68 million.
“As if matters were not complicated enough, nurses across the state are being assigned an increasing number of patients per one nurse, all while staffing levels continue to decline,” Tomlinson said. “That combination, along with COVID-19, can have serious consequences for our nurses and patients.”
The Patient Safety Act would set appropriate nursing ratios for Pennsylvania hospitals dependent upon the acuity of the unit’s patient needs. The basic principles of staffing in hospital settings would be based on the individual patient’s care needs, the severity of the condition, services needed and the complexity surrounding those services.
“I believe the job of a nurse is hard enough; just look at what this year has thrown at them,” Tomlinson said. “They have held the phone so loved ones could say their final goodbyes, then held the hands of those taking their last breath so they did not die alone. Passing the Patient Safety Act should not be complicated; it is basic decency and common sense.”