Nurses Oppose Ballot Question That Would Eliminate Hospital Patient Care Requirement

With elections around the corner, Dr. Bentley Hockenberry of the Massachusetts Nurses Association said, “hospital patients need to know what will happen at the hospital during the campaign and this year.”

Dr. Hockenberry, the executive director of the Bay State’s nurses association, said one way to protect patients is through the vote this November. She’s opposed to a ballot question that would abolish the requirement that elective procedures be performed in a hospital.

“The ballot question is about insurance companies and being able to treat patients, and make them uncompensated,” she said. “The purpose of it is not to treat patients.”

Massachusetts currently requires hospitals to be at least 70 percent full, meaning that more than 40 percent of beds are occupied, to comply with the patient care requirement. The ballot question would reduce that to 50 percent by 2027.

“Going 70 percent full to comply with this particular ballot question is like the doctor cutting out his or her fingernails every single day, and not being able to treat any patients,” Dr. Hockenberry said.

It’s not clear exactly what the financial effect would be from reducing the patient care requirement, since it’s an open question whether the reduction would be enough to push hospitals toward less elective procedures altogether.

The Associated Press reported last week that Massachusetts hospitals have cut costs by $1.6 billion in the past four years, largely by cutting out surgeries or procedures that other hospitals could do but there wasn’t enough patients for a new hospital.

Still, Dr. Hockenberry said, it’s “critical” to support the ballot question, just as it was important for nurses to back Proposition 2, which raised the minimum wage for many workers in the state.

This is a guest post by The Boston Globe.

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