MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - As contract negotiations between Duke Life Point and the Michigan nurses association continue, local union members are looking towards state bills that aim to improve hospital staffing levels.
"I would argue that we still have a ways to go but this is a big first step for us," said Scott Balko the local nurse union president.
Wednesday morning three bills labeled as the Safe Patient Care Act were presented in a house health policy committee meeting in Lansing.
The first of the three aims to limit the number of patients a registered nurse can be assigned and to establish a safe ratio recommended from evidence based research.
"As we see more and more hospitals in place going from public ownership, not for profits and then to profits, they become businesses that need to make money," said Balko. "The tighter they staff the more revenue they generate, so these bills are important to put a check in place."
The second bill, identical to a Senate Bill sponsored by Tom Casperson, it prohibits mandatory overtime for nurses except under certain circumstances. It stops nurses from working more than 12 hours and requires 8 hours off after a 12 hour shift.
"It makes for a safer environment for our patients, it makes for a better work environment for our nurses," said Balko.
The final bill of the Safe Patient Care Act would require hospitals to maintain a record of nurse to patient rations for each unit and shift.
Despite the overwhelming support of the act by Michigan nurses, there was some opposition.
"The legislative of one size fits all ratio model doesn’t quite meet the needs of the dynamic conditions that are our everyday reality," said Joyce Young of the Michigan Organization of Nursing Leaders.
These bills still have to be picked up by representatives before they can even be voted on.
In the meantime, the nurses and the hospital will continue their bargaining sessions on their own staffing levels and contracts tomorrow. Three more meetings will follow in December.
See attached document for details on the three bills.