Legislation could impose mandatory limits on number of patients nurses are assigned

The Michigan Safe Patient Care Act would limit the number of patients nurses can be assigned and prohibit mandatory nurse overtime.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 5:42 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - New legislation is in committee that would set statewide limits on the number of patients nurses can be assigned.

Two bills in the Michigan legislature address staffing in hospitals. Proponents call the overall package of bills the ‘Michigan Safe Patient Care Act.’ The bill’s language includes limiting the number of patients nurses can be assigned and prohibiting mandatory nurse overtime except under certain circumstances.

The Michigan Health and Hospital Association (MHA) says if the limits are mandated, it could restrict access to health care. However, members of the Michigan Nurses Association back the bill and say they’re understaffed and take on too many patients.

“Understaffing, you see long patient wait times in the Emergency Department where people are waiting in the waiting room and such without being seen by a nurse. Our patient ratio is up to seven patients per nurse instead of the proposed one to four patients by the bill,” said Brett Rautio, U.P. Health System - Bell staff council president.

The MHA opposes the legislation. They say the bills will not solve staffing shortages or improve patient outcomes. Instead, it will cause harm to patients and cost Michigan hospitals $1.1 billion to comply with the potential law change, leading to hospital closures and eventually, higher health care costs.

In a statement, the UP Health System - Marquette Spokesperson Janell Larson says

“This bill removes nurse staffing decisions from clinical leaders at the local level and instead creates a one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter mandate for all hospitals in Michigan, regardless of size or location. More patients will be at risk of severe outcomes because they will face longer delays in receiving care, particularly if they can’t be transferred from hospitals that are not equipped to deal with their conditions.”

Rautio says more than 90% of Michigan nurses want the legislation to pass.

“We think this would greatly benefit the state here, bringing back some of the 50,000 nurses right now in the state of Michigan that are licensed and not working, poor patient ratios are the number one reason that nurses are leaving the bedside a poll by the Michigan Nurses Association showed that 93% of nurses in the state would like this bill to pass,” Rautio said.

The bills are currently in committee, and TV6 will continue to follow this story as they move forward.