Senate Health Committee Approves Leyva Bill Improving Hospital Patient Safety

SB 1288 Ensures Hospitals Follow Nurse-to-Patient Ratio Regulations

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Following powerful testimony, legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will protect patient safety and reinforce nurse staffing ratio requirements passed the Senate Health Committee earlier today.

Co-sponsored by SEIU California, SEIU Local 121RN and United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC / UHCP), SB 1288 would require the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to conduct unannounced visits to hospitals to inspect for compliance with nurse staffing requirements.  The proposal empowers CDPH to enforce the nurse staffing ratios by fining hospitals that repeatedly create unsafe conditions for patient care by violating the Title 22 nurse staffing ratios.

In 1999, Governor Gray Davis signed into law AB 394, the nation’s first law mandating nurse-to-patient ratios in California. In 2004, regulations implementing AB 394 went into effect. The regulations set the minimum ratio of nurses to patient by unit, including one-to-one in operating rooms and one-to-five in general medical-surgical units. These ratios are outlined in Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations and are enforced by CDPH.  Despite the mandated ratios, hospitals repeatedly violate staffing requirements. From 2008 to 2017, there were 632 out-of-ratio deficiencies reported to CDPH.  Nurses may be overworked which can potentially endanger the health and safety of hospital patients.

“It is critical that nurse staffing ratios are adhered to by hospitals, particularly since patient safety can be compromised when nurses are overworked and not given much needed support,” Senator Leyva said.  “SB 1288 will improve healthcare quality in California hospitals by ensuring improved compliance with existing law.  This bill simply requires that hospitals actually meet the existing staffing ratio requirements and remain vigilant about empowering nurses to properly care for their patients.”

The Senate Appropriations Committee will next consider SB 1288 later this spring.