BOSTON — After an expensive campaign that sharply divided health care professionals, Massachusetts voters have rejected strict limits on the number of patients a single nurse can care for at one time.
Thousands of nurses said the hospitals they work for deceived voters on the Question 1 ballot issue.
The ballot question would have established nurse-to-patient ratios in various hospital units and set penalties for hospitals that failed to comply.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association supported the question, while hospitals and doctors' groups opposed it. The two sides combined had spent more than $30 million to make their case to voters.
Supporters said the nurse staffing requirements would make patients safer, but opponents said it would create an overly rigid system that could result in hospitals being forced to turn away some patients.
California is the only other U.S. state with mandated nurse-to-patient ratios.
For years, nurses and hospital administrators been fighting for what's now called the Patient Safety Act, which voters were asked to settle. It would set a standard ratio in hospitals of the maximum number of patients to be assigned at all times to a registered nurse.
"We know that right now – as I speak to you here – there are nurses caring for too many patients,
and those patients are unnecessarily being put in harm's way. And the problem continues to grow every year," Mass. Nurses Association President Donna Kelly-Williams said. "The status quo is not a solution here."
There are also three questions on the ballot including proposals to mandate specific nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals and create a citizens commission aimed at undoing the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.
© 2020 CMG/AP