(The Center Square) – Members of a joint Illinois House committee met with officials from the health care industry to hear about possibly limiting how many patients a nurse can care for at one time. Opponents say that could drive up health care costs.
Legislators met last week to go over potential solutions for fixing delays in new licenses going out to health care professionals, making some unable to work.
Tuesday, they addressed staffing ratios and said that the nurses and other health care professionals are seeking a change to the current law, which states that there is no limit to how many patients a nurse can be responsible for at one time.
Francis Orenic of AFL-CIO said legislators need to listen to the speakers because these workers know what they need to do their jobs.
“Considering they work directly with patients day and night, these workers are the experts on what our health care facilities need to provide proper care for our communities,” Orenic said. “Today, they will tell us about the need for safe staffing ratios.”
Catina Reed of Teamsters 743 said a legislative fix is needed so that families’ loved ones get the care they deserve.
“I believe a bill being passed for us to get these things done would work out for your loved ones, my loved ones, everyone’s loved ones when they are in the hospital or the nursing home,” Reed said.
According to National Nurses United, poor staffing endangers patients and drives nurses from the profession.
Shaba Andrich, vice president of nursing homes for SEIU, said this is already happening.
“Let’s start by debunking this myth. There is not this shortage of CNAs,” Andrich said. “Rather, this is a shortage of caregivers who are refusing to be overworked, undervalued and underpaid.”
Listed as opponents for Tuesday’s hearing were members of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association and Sinai Chicago CEO Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the former director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“I am opposed to mandated ratios that hand tie hospitals,” said Tim Kerrigan, chief nursing officer at Loyola Medical Center. “Mandates hand tie hospitals into being unable to implement new and innovative ways of taking care of patients. There is also an increased cost to this and most hospitals today are operating on razor thing margins.”
From previous opposition to mandated staffing proposals, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said such policies would threaten struggling hospitals and drive up health care costs in Illinois by $2 billion a year.
State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said they will be looking at legislative proposals going forward.
“All this information is important because we are in preparation to move legislation,” Evans said. “I really wanted to have this hearing to talk about this important issue.”