Safe Staffing Legislation Passes First Test

April 2012

Sacramento, CA On Wednesday, the California Senate Committee on Health passed Senate Bill 1246, authored by Dr. Ed Hernandez, Chair of the Senate Health Committee.   This legislation was sponsored by the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals to address the lack of mechanisms to ensure hospitals are complying with both nurse staffing ratios and patient classification systems.

“Safe staffing saves lives,” said Dr. Hernandez, Chair of the Senate Health Committee.  “My bill not only ensures that hospital regulators inspect for staffing levels, but provides the department with the tools to enforce the law when staffing levels are inadequate.”

SB 1246 will strengthen the existing nurse–to-patient staffing ratios in California hospitals by requiring the Department of Public Health (DPH) to check for compliance during regular periodic inspections, and by putting into effect existing statutory fine authority for DPH by removing the requirement that DPH issue regulations.  Moreover, the legislation codifies existing regulations relating to patient classification systems, and authorizes higher level fines for hospitals that have not established a patient classification system.  These systems have been a requirement long before nurse staffing ratios became law.

Despite minor opposition, in particular by the California Hospital Association, the bill passed on to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The next scheduled hearing has not been set.

“SB 1246 will help Registered Nurses provide safe patient care without worrying about hospitals cutting corners and jeopardizing the health of a patient,” said Barbara Blake, RN, State Secretary/Treasurer of the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP).   “I look forward to continuing to work with the Members of the Senate to ensure passage of this critically needed legislation.”