Good news for a change

Credit: Gabrielle Lurie / SF Chronicle (source)

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has announced that as of Feb 1st, it will no longer be accepting hospitals’ requests to waive the nurse-to-patient ratios. Since last summer, hospitals had been submitting requests to waive safe staffing ratios using the pandemic as an excuse, but in December the CDPH published an All Facilities Letter announcing that any hospital could apply for this waiver. These hospitals would have to present their case as to why their current staffing issues merited a change in ratios. Many hospitals in Southern California and a few in the Bay Area were granted this waiver, meaning in some cases that the nurse-to-patient ratio decreased from 1:5, to 1:7. This was not only extremely dangerous for both patients and nurses, but was in no way a solution to the already chronic issue of understaffing.

Nurses, like most other healthcare workers, were already overworked and exhausted, but the pandemic has only made matters much worse. To then add 2 extra patients to care for would only lead to more people calling in sick and refusing to pick up extra shifts. The bottom line was that hospitals did not care about patient safety, they just wanted to take advantage of this moment to overturn one of the best nurse-to-patient ratios in the country.

But nurses and other healthcare providers didn’t just sit and watch while this took place. Dozens of protests were organized across the state demanding safe staffing and safe ratios. After weeks of rallies and demonstrations, the CDPH made the right choice and decided to end the waivers!

This is a perfect example that even under all of these pressures, workers are able to organize and fight back, and sometimes even win!