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Doctoring The Nurse-Patient-Ratios

by  Jerry Flanagan and Carmen Balber
December 16, 2003 - 12:05 PM

Tipsters tell ArnoldWatch that lobbyists for the state hospital association were livid when they realized that Arnold’s freeze of all pending state regulations was too late to put a stop to newly minted rules for adequate nurse-to-patient ratios. The regulations require a standardized ratio of nurses-to-patients in health care facilities and is loathed by the state’s hospital lobby.

Hospital executives, hopeful for a second bite at the apple, may have hit upon a workable strategy: Take advantage of the state’s health care crisis. Word is hospitals will soon call for the declaration of a state of health care emergency - using the flu epidemic and lack of available hospital space in ERs and ICUs as their excuse - to suspend the finalized regulations. The Administrative Procedures Act, which governs regulatory matters, allows its operations to be suspended only after a state of emergency has been declared. Then Schwarzenegger can rewrite the rules more to the health care industry’s liking.

An intercepted internal Schwarzenegger Administration memo from the press office seems to back the theory. It discusses hot topics and what the official line is on them. It says, "Regulations: The nurse-patient ratio is going into effect on Jan 1. We are telling reporters this along with giving them a little background about the process DHS would go through to change them once they are implemented (which is the regular process any reg would go through)." Regs typically are not changed the day after implementation.

ArnoldWatch also received word that the hospital lobby has been taking Schwarzenegger staffers on private hospital tours in their attempt to dump the nurse ratios as unworkable. Adding hard cash to political prodding, Arnold pocketed $21,200 from Steven Francis, the CEO of AMN Healthcare which specializes in recruiting RNs and less-qualified healthcare professionals.

As the Southern California hospital association’s top exec Jim Lott recently told radio listeners on Warren Olney’s "Which Way L.A." show:

"The Administration controls the regulatory process and they are the ones who actually came up with most of these ratios that we are going to be confronted with, so the Administration giveth, they can take it away. "


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