Legislation Improving Hospital Patient Safety Passes Senate Health Committee

SB 227 Supported by Broad Coalition of Patient, Labor and Consumer Advocates

Thursday, April 11, 2019

SACRAMENTO – Legislation authored by Senator Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino) that will protect patient safety and reinforce nurse staffing ratio requirements passed from the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday.

With the goal of enhancing patient safety in hospitals, Senate Bill 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.

In 1999, Governor Gray Davis signed into law Assembly Bill 394, the nation’s first law mandating nurse-to-patient ratios in California. In 2004, regulations implementing AB 394 went into effect, which 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. Enforced by CDPH, these ratios are outlined in Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations. Though these ratios are mandated by law, some hospitals repeatedly violate staffing requirements. From 2008 to 2017, there were 634 out-of-ratio deficiencies reported to CDPH.

“When hospitals do not follow nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, patients can be seriously injured or even die,” Senator Leyva said.  “SB 227 will help to ensure that hospitals meet the letter of the law and prioritize patient safety at all times.  When hospitals repeatedly ignore nurse staffing ratios, CDPH should have the ability to fine those facilities so that they do not continue to jeopardize the safety of patients.”

Now advancing to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration, SB 227 is jointly sponsored by SEIU California, SEIU Local 121RN and United Nurses Associations of California / Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC / UHCP).  It is also supported by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association/ National Nurses United, California Professional Firefighters, California School Employees Association, California School Nurses Organization, California Teamsters Public Affairs Council, Congress of California Seniors, Consumer Attorneys of California, Engineers and Scientists of California Local 20, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13 and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.