WASHINGTON – By a 4-1 vote on July 7, the D.C. City Council’s Business and Consumer Affairs Committee approved a union-backed proposed ordinance mandating safe-staffing nurse-patient ratios – differing by type of care-in the city’s hospitals.
The legislation, modeled on a 10-year-old safe-staffing law in California, is a key cause of National Nurses United, whose members from D.C. hospitals lobbied the lawmakers and packed the council chamber at an earlier hearing on the legislation.
“The committee took an important step to improve safety in District hospitals by assuring our patients have safe staffing at all times,” said Stephanie Sims, RN, NNU’s chief shop steward at Washington Hospital Center, the city’s largest.
“Nurse-to-patient ratios is sound public policy, by improving patient outcomes, cutting workers’ compensation costs, keeping nurses at the bedside and raising the bar for public safety. There is simply no substitute for mandating minimum nursing staff levels,” added NNU Co-President Deborah Burger, a California RN.
The still faces opposition from the hospital lobby, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and a competing, weak, proposal from the dissenter. If the full council approves it, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signs it and Congress does not veto it, D.C. would join California as safe-staffing states, though similar safe-staffing proposals are pending in Minnesota and elsewhere.
Photo: D.C. nurses, members of National Nurses United, are all smiles after a city council committee approved the Safe Staffing legislation they and their union pushed. The measure now goes to the full council. D.C. Nurses Association photo via PAI Photo Service.