Mass. Voters Say 'No' To Nurse Staffing Ballot Question

Nov 6, 2018

Massachusetts voters have decided the state will not write nurse-to-patient ratios into law. A ballot question that would have set the maximum number of patients assigned to a nurse in hospitals at any given time failed on Tuesday.

“Thank you to the voters of Massachusetts for a vote to protect the best health care system in the nation,” said Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association president Steve Walsh, in a victory speech.

Visits to hospital emergency departments are supposed to be brief, so physicians can treat the most acute injuries and illnesses. But Maine ERs are also seeing other patients that need long-term help.

Massachusetts voters are souring on a ballot measure that would limit the numbers of patients assigned to nurses, according to a WBUR poll (topline results, crosstabs) out Wednesday that shows 58 percent of voters now plan to say “no” on Question 1.

With Adam Frenier, Patty Healey (center) is a member of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and Angela Belmont (at right) is Chief Nursing Officer at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass.
Joyce Skowyra / NEPR

Massachusetts ballot Question 1, if passed, would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities, depending on the unit and the level of care.

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Brenda Pignone, a staff nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, arrives before 7 a.m. on a typical day. For 26 years, she’s taken the elevator to a floor known as White 7, where most of her patients are healing after abdominal surgery.