New Law requires disclosure about nurse to patient ratios

John Fisher
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Stopping Medical Injustice

What is the nurse-to-patient ratio at your hospital? How many are registered nurses? Now you can ask those questions and the hospital is required to tell you, according to today's article in the Albany Times-Union.

On March 15, 2010, a new law went into effect in New York that requires hospitals and nursing homes to make nurse-to-patient ratios available to the public. The law also requires health facilities to report adverse events, which may reveal facilities where staffing shortages contribute to higher rates of medical errors.

The law also requires hospitals and nursing homes to report the number of registered nurses and licensed practical  nurses (LPNs) providing direct care; the ratio of full-time nurses to patients; the number of unlicensed workers providing direct care; information on complaints filed against the hospital and hospital staffing policies.

However, there is one catch: the information will not be collected or published by the state.  The law requires hospitals and nursing homes to make the information available to any member of the public who requests it and to any state agency that supervises health facilities. The NYS Department of Health has no plans to ask hospitals and nursing homes to submit the information. The public can access the data by contacting the hospitals and nursing homes.

Consumers have the right to ask about staffing ratios at hospitals and nursing homes under this new law. The federal government publishes information about nurse to patient ratios at nursing homes at www.medicare.gov/NHCompare.

Research has shown that nursing levels are associated with the frequency of some patient injuries; the fewer nurses, the higher the rate of injuries.  The NYS law requires that health facilities reports those kinds of events, including falls, pressure sores, urinary tract infections and blood stream infections.

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