You are here

UMass Memorial Health Care Emergency Departments To Suffer Under Question 1

Proposal would critically impact emergency departments wait times and decrease access to care-
Worcester, Mass. – UMass Memorial Health Care, which includes UMass Memorial Medical Center, UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital and UMass Memorial-Marlborough Hospital, announced today their opposition to mandated nurse staffing ratios, citing the devastating impacts these rigid government requirements would have on their ability to provide emergency care to patients. Slated to be Question 1 on the ballot this November, these unnecessary and unfounded staffing requirements will dramatically increase emergency room wait times and delay life-saving services in hospitals across the state.
“In the Emergency Department, I’m especially concerned about the patients in the waiting room,” said Gregory A. Volturo, MD, Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “If we can’t admit patients to the inpatient units due to staffing restrictions, we won’t be able to pull patients out of the waiting rooms to determine their needs and promptly care for them. Longer emergency department wait times and restricted care are going to be common occurrences if Question 1 passes.”
The enormous costs and operational hurdles associated with the nurse staffing ballot question will set UMass Memorial back $36 million and will lead to negative impacts for patients in their emergency department. As the region’s only Level I trauma center UMass Memorial accepts trauma patients from across the state.  If the hospital must adhere to these strict staffing guidelines the wait time for those in waiting rooms will increase until the department has discharged or moved patients to meet the ratios.
There are no exceptions to this mandate, even in the event of an unexpected influx of patients – such as a multi-car crash or large fire. According to an independent study by MassInsight and BW Research Partners, mandated nursing staffing requirements would exacerbate the current nursing shortage, causing emergency room wait times to sky rocket. 
The ballot question would require that hospitals across the state, no matter their size or specific needs of their patients, adhere to the same rigid nurse staffing ratios within all patient care areas at all times. The petition does not make allowances for rural or small community hospitals, holding them to the same staffing ratios as major teaching hospitals like UMass Memorial Medical Center.
“If this bill passes it will significantly impact the professional development of nurses,” said Candra Szymanski, Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Emergency and Critical Care Services at UMass Memorial. “We have special training for new nurses and you can’t replace one nurse with another, they need specialized skills that take time. Staffing requirements won’t allow us to provide that proper training necessary for safe patient care.”
The ballot question is opposed by the American Nurses Association - Massachusetts, Emergency Nurses Association - Massachusetts Chapter, Organization of Nurse Leaders, Infusion Nurses Society, Massachusetts Association of Colleges of Nursing, Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses’ Greater Boston Chapter, the Western Massachusetts Nursing Collaborative, the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals, the Conference of Boston Teaching Hospitals, and other health care and business leaders across the state.
“We have done tremendous work to help decrease the wait times in our emergency departments which is very challenging given the important role UMass Memorial fills for emergency and trauma care in the region,” said Eric W. Dickson, MD, an emergency medicine physician and president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care. “Question 1 has many unintended consequences the most glaring of which is the impact on the emergency departments in Massachusetts. It will undoubtedly increase the wait times for our patients.”
About UMass Memorial Health Care
UMass Memorial Health Care is the largest not-for-profit health care system in Central Massachusetts with more than 12,900 employees and 1,670 physicians, many of whom are members of UMass Memorial Medical Group. Our member hospitals and entities include Clinton Hospital, HealthAlliance Hospital, Marlborough Hospital, UMass Memorial Medical Center and Community Healthlink, our behavioral health agency. With our teaching and research partner, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, our extensive primary care network and our cancer, diabetes, heart and vascular, and musculoskeletal programs, UMass Memorial delivers safe, high-quality and compassionate care.
Call 855-UMASS-MD (855-862-7763) for all your health care needs. Visit