Deal could avert ballot questions on hospitals

The measure now goes to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk

BOSTON (AP) — A union representing nurses in Massachusetts says it will withdraw two proposed November ballot questions if a deal reached on nurse-patient ratios is signed into law.

On Thursday, the Senate joined the House in approving the agreement that would set strict limits on the number of patients that registered nurses who work in hospital intensive care units can be assigned to at a given time. The measure now goes to Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk.

Once the bill becomes law, the union will withdraw two proposed ballot initiatives: one that would require nurse-patient ratios and another that would force hospitals to be more transparent about their financial holdings, Massachusetts Nurses Association President Donna Kelly-Williams said in a statement.

The union said it has already collected enough signatures to put both measures on the ballot.

“This is a landmark victory for patient safety,” Kelly-Williams said. “This measure will protect the most critically ill patients in our hospitals and moves us closer to our ultimate goal, which is to extend these limits in all hospital units to protect all patients.”

Massachusetts Hospital Association President Lynn Nicholas said the bill was better than that the ballot question.

Nicholas said the bill “appropriately keeps staffing decisions at the bedside and based on individual patient needs, the skills and experience of the entire care team, appropriate use of technology and the knowledge and expertise of our hospitals’ nurses and nurse managers.”

She also praised the legislation for focusing on the ICU and leaving staffing flexibility throughout the rest of the hospital.

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