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Lincoln Daily News
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Proposed Illinois law mandating hospital nurse-to-patient ratios would compromise care and operations

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To the editor:

Illinois legislators are debating House Bill 2604, a proposed law that would mandate nurse-to-patient ratios. This means the state would control how many patients a nurse can care for at one time in a hospital setting. Unfortunately, this bill will have unintended consequences.

The safety of the patients we serve is our top priority. Our exceptional nurses are a key reason we are able to provide such great care. Appropriate nursing coverage is essential for quality care. However, the measures outlined in this particular piece of legislation will not achieve that goal.

Small rural hospitals, like Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, and the patients they serve will be particularly harmed by this bill. Hospitals all across the nation, and rural hospitals in particular, are struggling with the reality of the national nursing shortage. If this bill becomes law, it will be nearly impossible to hire the number of nurses we will need to meet government-mandated ratios.

This one-size-fits-all approach is not in the best interest of our patients. Because we will be unable to hire more high-quality nurses to comply with these nurse-to-patient ratios, we may be forced to cut important services or be unable to serve everyone in our community, which runs counter to our mission of service.

[to top of second column in this letter]

This legislation would have unique – and potentially dangerous – consequences at hospitals like ours, putting our ability to transfer our most vulnerable patients at risk. Larger hospitals, including Memorial Medical Center, would be unable to accept transfers from smaller hospitals around the region if these rigid nurse staffing levels are at the limit of the number of patients they can care for. This will reduce access to essential medical care for residents of our community and many other communities around the state.

The system we have in place now allows us to provide the best care possible for our patients and community. ALMH’s dedicated and compassionate nurses have the expertise and the experience to make the moment-by-moment decisions to do what is best for their patients. However, this bill would take that freedom out of the hands of nurses and put it into the hands of lawmakers, who don’t understand the health needs of the people and communities we serve.

Dolan Dalpoas
President and CEO
Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital

[Posted April 10, 2019]

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