Kosierowski votes for Patient Safety Act

HARRISBURG, June 28 – State Rep. Bridget M. Kosierowski today voted to safeguard the safety of patients by requiring minimum nurse staffing levels at hospitals across Pennsylvania.

House Bill 106, which would set minimum direct care nurse staffing ratios for patient care for various levels of care, passed the House of Representatives (119-84) and heads to the state Senate for consideration.

“As a nurse for more than 25 years, I can vouch for the attention that is required to appropriately care for a patient. By requiring hospitals to maintain staffing ratios, patients can feel confident that they will receive adequate care, while ensuring that nurses are not unnecessarily overwhelmed in what is already a stressful job,” said Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna, a prime co-sponsor of the bill.

The staffing plan would be the minimum required number of nurses. However, Kosierowski said more nurses must be assigned if the patient’s needed level of care requires it.

The plans must provide for minimum requirements for non-nursing staff including clerks and charge nurses. Hospitals could not rely on reducing all other job classifications as part of nurse-staffing plan.

Plans would need to be printed and available online, including the difference between required nursing staff and actual nursing staff per shift.

Hospitals would need to review the staffing plan at least annually to assure a hospital has appropriate staffing to meet the needs of its patients.

Nurses would be able to submit a Safe Harbor form to gain liability protection when asked to work in conditions they feel are unsafe for patients. The Pennsylvania Department of Health would need to create an online complaint system. The department could -- but would not be required to -- impose both civil and administrative penalties for violation of the staffing plan and staffing ratios. The penalties could include requiring corrective action plans, civil penalties, or declaration of immediate jeopardy or suspension/revocation of a license. The bill would allocate fine money collected to a fund to support recruitment and retention of registered nurses at rural hospitals and hospitals with a high percentage of patients on Medicaid. 

Kosierowski said that with the full knowledge of how challenging this may be for certain hospitals and the work force shortage, the legislation was amended to allow a phase-in for acute care and critical access hospitals in rural areas and for hospitals with a high percentage of patients on Medicaid.