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
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.