Nurses Fight for Patient Safety

Mary Maes cried as she spoke up in support of legislation on

nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in New Mexico’s hospitals.

Maes, recently retired after 40 years as an RN, told the House

Consumer and Public Affairs Committee that up until 2008, she took

care of patients “one-to-one.”

“Now, you survive on your own, because I can’t take care of you,” she

said. “Now you (nurses) have three or four patients. They have

completely destroyed staffing ratios.”

2008 was when the corporation Christus Health took over Santa Fe’s St.

Vincent Regional Medical Center and began parsing down

nurse-to-patient ratios – a move motivated solely by turning a larger

profit at the purportedly “nonprofit” facility.

Work loads for nurses have doubled over recent years, said St.

Vincent’s nurse Sharon Argenbright, and turnover for nurses has jumped

to 75 percent.

“This trend is only designed to increase profits,” said Holly Beaumont

of Interfaith Worker Justice. “It puts patients at risk and you can

see the strain on nurses.”

Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) sponsored House Memorial 51, which

included ratios as guidelines for New Mexico’s hospitals. Egolf noted

that California – the country’s largest state with a huge number of

small, rural communities – has similar state-wide staffing

requirements.

The numbers were pulled form the memorial by committee members before

they moved it on with a “do pass.” Egolf said that was fine, because

he wanted to merely get a conversation started.

Argenbright said after the hearing she was pleased with the outcome.

Though the hard figures were removed, the memorial will still require

hospitals report their staffing levels. St. Vincent’s has been

unwilling to disclose those figures.

A contingent of nursing students from Luna Community College also

turned out in support of the memorial. Once the House Consumer and

Public Affairs Committee approved the measure Tuesday morning, the

students and St. Vincents nurses began mobilizing to pick up votes inboth the house and senate.

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