McBroom hopes 3rd time’s charm for nurse care bill

The Safe Patient Care Act, aimed at requiring specific nurse-to-patient ratios and reducing mandatory overtime for nurses, has been reintroduced to the Michigan House and Senate.

The bill would require hospitals to staff a certain ratio of registered nurses to patients in different departments, set by a staffing committee with half of the membership filled by registered professional nurses who staff the unit. It would also limit the number of forced overtime for registered nurses and report staffing ratios to the government for public access.

The Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) supports the bill. Its website states nurses assigned too many patients or working too many hours prevent them from providing each patient with quality care. An MNA spokesperson did not return request for comment before deadline.

“I think all of us simply have to look to our personal experiences with ourselves or a loved one in the hospital to see how difficult that job has to be for one nurse to take care of eight or 10 people… and sometimes that means lives are at stake,” said District 38 Sen. Ed McBroom.

McBroom said the law already requires other professions, like trucking or air travel, to cap the number of hours worked or provisions for mandatory rest to ensure public safety. He thinks nursing should be similarly managed.

“The amount of paperwork that the nurse has to do in order to discharge someone is hours she spends away from taking care of other folks, or if there’s some desperate need, hours she has to take away from filling out the discharge papers and the patient and his family continue to sit there and wait. All of us have experienced that, I think,” McBroom said.

The bill was introduced as Senate Bill 159 and House Bill 4279 and has been introduced at least twice before.

“It often takes multiple sessions,” McBroom said. “It takes a lot of work to educate folks into support of something that seems obvious to one person.”

McBroom, the state senator representing all but three counties in the Upper Peninsula, co-sponsored the bill with 11 other senators.

“We need the input of other stakeholders and parties to come up with a workable solution that’s going to make health care safer for all patients and for the people who work there providing it,” he said.

McBroom said he has not heard from any hospital administrators concerning the bill yet. No hospital administrations contacted by the Gazette returned calls before deadline.

The bill provides three years for hospitals to enact its provisions, four years for hospitals located in rural areas.