Nurses unions push for mandatory staff-to-patient ratios

Nurses unions push for mandatory staff-to-patient ratios

By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Unions representing nurses in Illinois are pushing for legislation that would impose mandatory staff-to-patient ratios in hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities.

But lobby groups representing hospitals and nursing homes say they are steadfastly opposed to the legislation, arguing that a nationwide nursing shortage makes it impossible to comply with such a mandate.

The proposed Safe Patient Limits Act, by Sen. Celina Villanueva and Rep. Theresa Mah, both Chicago Democrats, was introduced in February and was the subject of a joint hearing last week in Chicago by two House committees. It’s an issue that has been discussed in the General Assembly since 2019 but has thus far failed to gain the necessary traction for passage. The latest hearing came just three weeks before lawmakers return to the Capitol for their fall veto session, which begins Oct. 24.

“Short staffing isn’t a mere inconvenience. It’s a dire issue,” said Shaba Andrich, vice president of nursing homes for the SEIU Healthcare employee union. “It’s predominantly a Black and brown issue. In historically marginalized communities of Chicago, these issues are magnified. These communities that already face systemic underinvestment are further deprived of adequate nursing care due to chronic short staffing.”

The bill calls for setting a maximum number of patients that could be assigned to a registered nurse in specified situations. For example, in units with critical care or intensive care patients, the maximum number of patients per nurse would be just one. In units with pediatric patients, the bill would allow three patients per nurse, and in units with psychiatric patients, the bill would allow four patients per nurse.

It also provides some legal protection for nurses, stating that they are to provide their services exclusively in the interest of patients, “unencumbered by the commercial or revenue-generating priorities” of a facility that employs registered professional nurses.

Andrich, testifying before the committee last week, disputed the notion that there is a nursing shortage in Illinois. He said there is only “a shortage of caregivers who are refusing to be overworked and undervalued and underpaid,” and that the result of understaffing has direct consequences for patients.

“Such understaffing isn’t merely an operational concern. It translates into real world consequences,” he said. “Seniors enduring falls, malnutrition, missed medication, avoidable hospitalization, and, tragically, avoidable deaths.”

Some of those who testified in favor of the bill accused hospitals and nursing homes of being more concerned about labor costs and profit margins than the best interests of patients.

“We need this legislation because hospitals are incentivized to reduce labor costs. This means less staff,” said Jeanine Johnson, a critical care nurse at Ascension St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet. “Hospital executives see budgets and labor costs. Nurses see patients and their lives.”

A.J. Wilhelmi, president & CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, a hospital trade group, said it’s true that health care providers face significant financial pressures, largely because Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates have not kept pace with the rising cost of health care. But he said contrary to what the unions claimed, there is a significant and growing nursing shortage in Illinois, and the proposed Safe Patient Limits Act would put even more of a financial burden on providers.

During his testimony, Wilhelmi cited a state survey into the registered nurse workforce that was conducted by the Illinois Nursing Workforce Center – which is a state agency that works to promote the nursing profession. Of the respondents to that survey, 27 percent indicated an intent to retire within the next five years. The IHA interpreted that and other data in the survey to suggest the state could see a shortage of 14,400 registered nurses by 2025.

“I’m deeply concerned that many hospitals in the state, particularly safety net hospitals, critical access hospitals, will be unable to absorb the huge cost that ratios would impose,” he said. “And given the enormous financial pressures that Illinois hospitals already face, if this bill becomes law, they’re going to have to make some tough decisions like cutting back services, closing hundreds of beds, and eliminating jobs. And frankly, some of our hospitals might be forced to close.”

Andy Allison, deputy director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, the agency that administers the state’s Medicaid program, suggested that the key to solving the staffing issues in hospitals and nursing homes is to raise wages to make the jobs more attractive.

He noted that last year, lawmakers passed a significant overhaul of the way the state reimburses nursing homes through Medicaid, adding roughly $700 million in the form of incentives to increase wages and hire more staff.

Before those reforms were adopted, he said, Illinois was home to 46 of the 100 worst-staffed nursing homes in the country. As of March 31, he said, that number had dropped to 14.

“We hope that it becomes zero. We have a ways to go,” he said. “But in the last five quarters – that is, through March 31 of this year – in that five-quarter period, total nurse staffing hours statewide are up 15 percent.”

Denise Stiger, an organizer for Teamsters Local 743, which represents health care workers in many Chicago-area facilities, said that money has not solved the problem, and that in some nursing homes, one CNA still could have as many as 20 patients to tend to during their shift.

“We have to deal with the owners because they’re slum lords. That’s what they are,” she said. “And I understand that they get cited, and it’s public. But these owners are not looking at that. These owners are looking at these patients as money.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association. 

 

Leave a Comment





Local News

Antoinette Briley

Woman sentenced in 2003 murders of newborn twins

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports A 44-year-old woman, charged in the 2003 deaths of her newborn twins following an extensive cold case investigation by Cook County Sheriff’s Police, has been convicted of murder. On May 8, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced that Antoinette Briley pled guilty to murder at the Bridgeview Courthouse and…

dvn mccook coco

McCook approves ‘preventive’ rodent control program

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch The McCook Village Board earlier this month approved what Mayor Terrance Carr calls “preventive maintenance.” The board on May 6 unanimously approved paying Rose Pest Solutions $12,000 for a 10-week rodent control program throughout the village. It’s not that the McCook now has a rat problem, Carr said. It’s that…

Summit residents and property owners attend the community meeting on May 15. (Photo by Chris Crisanti)

Summit, property owners discuss apartment inspections

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan Nearly 75 people attended a community meeting last Wednesday evening in the multi-purpose room of Graves School to learn about changes coming to the village. Three topics highlighted the meeting. Rental property inspections, lead line replacement, and replacing the 74th Avenue pedestrian bridge. Mayor Sergio Rodriguez tackled the controversial rental…

New I-PASS sticker tag. (Photo from Illinois Tollway website)

Tollway to hand out free transponder stickers in Justice

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan Earlier this year, the Illinois Tollway began phasing out the plastic I-Pass transponder and introduced a sticker tag that goes on your vehicle’s windshield. If you’re still using a transponder, or want to get a new sticker, the Village of Justice is the place to be on Saturday, June 8.…

Darth Vader and some friends were in attendance at the annual Fan Fest. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Library draws a crowd with Fan Fest

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Comic book lovers gathered together in one common space earlier this month. Oak Lawn Public Library hosted its eighth annual Fan Fest, an all-ages celebration of pop culture, on May 11 at the library, 9427 S. Raymond Avenue. “It’s wonderful to see the community come together in celebration of shared…

Palos Heights wants to chop down this tree, remove the greenspace and pave it over. (Photo by Nuha Abdessalam)

Navajo Hills residents want to save threatened cul-de-sacs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam Navajo Hills greenspace islands could be getting the ax and residents are upset. Residents of the East and West Courts of Navajo Hills, aware of the historical significance of the greenspace, spoke up during the Palos Heights City Council meeting May 21. There are five cul-de-sacs in the Navajo Hills…

regional ph summer concerts 2024

Summer concerts coming to Palos Heights

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam At the May 21 City Council meeting, Ald. Jeff Key shared exciting news about some of the summer activities coming to Palos Heights in the coming months. Key said the Concerts in the Park, a series of family-friendly events featuring live music, food vendors, and fun activities for all ages,…

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau speaks during the May 16 State of the Village Address. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Nerds and bullies among topics of Orland’s State of the Village

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva The 2024 Orland Park State of the Village Address was held at the Orland Park Civic Center, but it could have been held on a playground with talk of nerds and bullies and cool kids. Mayor Keith Pekau spent the first half hour “ripping off the Band Aid” of some…

Marist won the Marist Sectional and will play Payton on Friday, May 31 in the state quarterfinals. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Boys Volleyball | Marist tops Jones, advances to state quarterfinals

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent For the first time since 2019, Marist will play in the IHSA state finals. The RedHawks (36-2) beat Jones, 25-13, 25-13, for their 17th straight victory and a Marist Sectional championship on May 28 in Mount Greenwood. They will face Payton in the state quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. Friday,…

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound May 29, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love

Neighbors

Antoinette Briley

Woman sentenced in 2003 murders of newborn twins

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports A 44-year-old woman, charged in the 2003 deaths of her newborn twins following an extensive cold case investigation by Cook County Sheriff’s Police, has been convicted of murder. On May 8, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced that Antoinette Briley pled guilty to murder at the Bridgeview Courthouse and…

dvn mccook coco

McCook approves ‘preventive’ rodent control program

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch The McCook Village Board earlier this month approved what Mayor Terrance Carr calls “preventive maintenance.” The board on May 6 unanimously approved paying Rose Pest Solutions $12,000 for a 10-week rodent control program throughout the village. It’s not that the McCook now has a rat problem, Carr said. It’s that…

Summit residents and property owners attend the community meeting on May 15. (Photo by Chris Crisanti)

Summit, property owners discuss apartment inspections

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan Nearly 75 people attended a community meeting last Wednesday evening in the multi-purpose room of Graves School to learn about changes coming to the village. Three topics highlighted the meeting. Rental property inspections, lead line replacement, and replacing the 74th Avenue pedestrian bridge. Mayor Sergio Rodriguez tackled the controversial rental…

New I-PASS sticker tag. (Photo from Illinois Tollway website)

Tollway to hand out free transponder stickers in Justice

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan Earlier this year, the Illinois Tollway began phasing out the plastic I-Pass transponder and introduced a sticker tag that goes on your vehicle’s windshield. If you’re still using a transponder, or want to get a new sticker, the Village of Justice is the place to be on Saturday, June 8.…

Darth Vader and some friends were in attendance at the annual Fan Fest. (Supplied photos)

Oak Lawn Library draws a crowd with Fan Fest

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Kelly White Comic book lovers gathered together in one common space earlier this month. Oak Lawn Public Library hosted its eighth annual Fan Fest, an all-ages celebration of pop culture, on May 11 at the library, 9427 S. Raymond Avenue. “It’s wonderful to see the community come together in celebration of shared…

Palos Heights wants to chop down this tree, remove the greenspace and pave it over. (Photo by Nuha Abdessalam)

Navajo Hills residents want to save threatened cul-de-sacs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam Navajo Hills greenspace islands could be getting the ax and residents are upset. Residents of the East and West Courts of Navajo Hills, aware of the historical significance of the greenspace, spoke up during the Palos Heights City Council meeting May 21. There are five cul-de-sacs in the Navajo Hills…

regional ph summer concerts 2024

Summer concerts coming to Palos Heights

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Nuha Abdessalam At the May 21 City Council meeting, Ald. Jeff Key shared exciting news about some of the summer activities coming to Palos Heights in the coming months. Key said the Concerts in the Park, a series of family-friendly events featuring live music, food vendors, and fun activities for all ages,…

Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau speaks during the May 16 State of the Village Address. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Nerds and bullies among topics of Orland’s State of the Village

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva The 2024 Orland Park State of the Village Address was held at the Orland Park Civic Center, but it could have been held on a playground with talk of nerds and bullies and cool kids. Mayor Keith Pekau spent the first half hour “ripping off the Band Aid” of some…

Marist won the Marist Sectional and will play Payton on Friday, May 31 in the state quarterfinals. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Boys Volleyball | Marist tops Jones, advances to state quarterfinals

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent For the first time since 2019, Marist will play in the IHSA state finals. The RedHawks (36-2) beat Jones, 25-13, 25-13, for their 17th straight victory and a Marist Sectional championship on May 28 in Mount Greenwood. They will face Payton in the state quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. Friday,…

CRR_NH

Clear-Ridge Reporter and NewsHound May 29, 2024

Spread the love

Spread the love