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Minn. nurse staffing debate exposes partisan rift

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 21, 2013 at 11:25 am •  Published: February 21, 2013

"The simple truth is, quotas do not equal quality," he said.

The plan would establish a system of record keeping for hospitals and potential punishments for those that fall short of the standards. Staffing levels, which would be determined by evidence-based protocols or a newly created government board, would have to be posted in waiting areas for staff, patients and the public. Annual reports from hospitals would include details on the hours-per-patient that nurses work.

The committee added an amendment that would prevent hospitals from laying off registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or certified nursing assistants to meet the standards. Opponents of the bill contend a similar law in California led to cuts in other employee ranks to pay for the hiring of new nurses.

Republicans complained all of it would put hospitals in an untenable situation and may lead to closures of smaller community hospitals.

"It intrudes on the management-labor relationship a great deal," said Rep. Mark Uglem, R-Champlin. "You need to have flexibility."

Rep. Joe Atkins, the bill's sponsor, said lawmakers need to look beyond the bottom line.

"Patient safety, patient's protection ought not to be decided at the bargaining table," said Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights.

The bill has several more committee stops before reaching the House floor; a companion Senate bill awaits its initial hearing.