Senator Leyva Reintroduces Legislation Improving Hospital Patient Safety

SB 227 Ensures Hospitals Follow Nurse-to-Patient Ratio Regulations

Thursday, February 7, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Earlier today, Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) reintroduced legislation that will protect patient safety and reinforce nurse staffing ratio requirements in California.

Sponsored by SEIU California, SEIU Local 121RN and United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC / UHCP), SB 227 would require the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to conduct unannounced visits to hospitals to inspect for compliance with nurse staffing requirements.  The measure 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.

After Governor Gray Davis signed into law Assembly Bill 394—the nation’s first law mandating nurse-to-patient ratios in California—in 1999, regulations implementing the requirements went into effect in 2004. The regulations set the minimum ratio of nurses to patients 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 634 out-of-ratio deficiencies reported to CDPH.

“The health and safety of patients can be compromised when hospitals do not follow mandated nurse staffing ratios,” Senator Leyva said.  “SB 227 will improve healthcare quality in California hospitals and make sure that patients receive the care they need and deserve.  Nurse-to-patient ratios protect patients, so it is important that hospitals meet these requirements. When they fail to do so, it is imperative that we are able to hold them accountable so they can promptly correct their potentially dangerous actions.  Though the former Governor vetoed a previous version of this bill last year, I look forward to working with our new Legislature and Governor Newsom to reaffirm our commitment to empowering nurses and protecting patients across California.”

SB 227 will soon be assigned to the appropriate committee(s) for consideration.