Thursday, May 10, 2001

Nurses rally at statehouse

Event supports staffing standards

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLUMBUS — More than 600 nurses from throughout Ohio gathered Wednesday at the statehouse to urge lawmakers to pass a bill that would ban mandatory overtime and require hospitals to establish minimum staffing standards.

        Saying they have been overworked and underpaid for the past several years, many hospital nurses have been leaving bedside jobs in favor of better-paying jobs in temporary agencies and less stressful non-hospital jobs.

        “It is very simple. Not enough nurses, not enough good patient outcomes,” said Mary Foley, president of the American Nurses Association, who traveled from Washington, D.C., to speak at Wednesday's rally.

        Ohio is one of 30 states where nurse groups are calling for changes in state laws. The Ohio Nurses Association supports House Bill 78, sponsored by Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin, R-Aurora, and nine other legislators.

        The bill would prohibit hospitals from requiring overtime, prohibit nurses from working more than 18 hours straight, and would require hospitals to live by minimum staffing standards set by their own committees of nurses and administrators.

        Wednesday's rally included 23 nurses from University Hospital, many of whom said they deal constantly with the problems caused by short staffing.

        “It's very critical. On night shift you can have one registered nurse and one or two aides for 22 patients,” said Glenda Gabbard, a surgical nurse at University Hospital.

        However, hospital groups oppose House Bill 78. “We can't legislate our way out of the nursing shortage,” said Mary Yost, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Hospital Association, which testified Wednesday during a committee hearing against the bill.

        “We agree that mandatory overtime is not a tool you want to use every day,” Ms. Yost said. “But there are times when hospitals need that tool.”


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