Nurses Rally Outside of Cape Cod Hospital in Support of Patient Safety Limits Ballot Question

Tim Dunn/

HYANNIS – As election season heats up across Massachusetts, a ballot question that seeks to impose legal limits on the amount of patients assigned to a nurse during a shift has hospital executives and nurses at ever-increasing odds.  

Officials from the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA) teamed up with a group of about ten Registered Nurses employed at Cape Cod Hospital on Tuesday as part of the patient safety advocates “Truth Tour”, a campaign backed by MNA to raise public support for implementing the proposed Safe Patient Limits bill. The bill is Question 1 on this year’s ballot.

“We’re so opposed to this nurse ballot initiative being proposed by the MNA,” said President and CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare Michael Lauf. “Simply put, it’s a bad idea. There’s no research that’s been done that suggests that having more nurses will improve outcomes.”

Nurses at Cape Cod Hospital say they are overwhelmed at work because they’re forced by management to treat seven or even eight patients at once during their shifts. They add that the understaffing of bedside nurses at the hospital presents safety risks to patients, as nurses are left to decide which patient should be treated first while the others are left with no assistance.

Shannon Sherman has been a Registered Nurse at Cape Cod Hospital for 17 years. She says the control and care of patients has been completely taken out of the hands of nursing staff and “strictly given to management.”

“So, if I was to speak to a manager and say ‘I needed less patients because I have someone who is critically ill,’ they would say ‘You have five patients, make do with what you have,’” Sherman explained. “We’ve been willing to go to the table and talk to management for years and they refuse to have the conversation about ratios and what’s safe for the patient. We want to take back the control and say what’s right for our patients in the care that they receive.”

Lauf argues that Sherman’s claims are “simply not true,” dismissing them as an idea driven by special interest groups out of Boston.

“We have some of the best ratios right here in the Commonwealth and the country, right here on the Cape. The fact is, their own leadership has said our nurses are overwhelmingly happy with Cape Cod Healthcare,” retorted Lauf. “We want to work with our nurses and cherish our nurses, but this idea is being driven by special interest groups in Boston, it’s a governmental mandate that would harm the way that we make local decisions and harm the way that we’d be able to take care of our community.”

Sherman adds that hospital officials have been spreading false claims about the potential consequences of the Safe Patients Limits bill being passed. She says the hospital has spread false rumors about the government imposing “strict, rigid ratios” on hospitals across the state if the ballot is passed.

“I really implore Cape Cod Hospital and upper management to listen and to stop spreading lies. All we want to do is take care of our patients safely,” Sherman said.

Tim Dunn/

MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams attended the Tour’s stop in Hyannis, bringing along with her a private bus displaying the message “Nurses Say Yes On 1. Safety Patient Limits. November 6 2018.” She and other nurses affiliated with MNA wrote the actual legislation for the ballot.  

Kelly-Williams argues that the hospital has not only refused to hire additional nursing staff, but have also been disingenuous about the financial impacts associated with it. She adds that another falsehood portrayed by similar hospitals across the state is an inefficient supply of nurses in the workforce to support safer patient limits.

“In Massachusetts we have more nurses per capita than any other state in the United States with the exception of South Dakota,” Kelly-Williams argued. “What we do have are nurses that are not willing to work under these conditions. They’ve gone through all of the schooling, they’ve gotten their license, they have worked for a while and have finally said, ‘I can’t do this, it’s not safe.’”

Lauf says the ratio being sought out by the MNA on the ballot is not scientifically proven. He says that it’s simply “a bad idea and we should say no.”

“It will make Cape Cod Healthcare operate under a fixed number of nurses at all times in every unit. We’ll have to add 250 nurses. It’ll cost us $32.4 million per year to do so, and the result will be the closure of services, the loss of patient beds, and extended stays in our ERs.”

Candidate for State Rep. of the 5th Barnstable District Jack Stanton also attended. Stanton has been endorsed by the MNA for his support of the ballot initiative.

The MNA says that 86-percent of Registered Nurses in the state support the Safe Patients Limit bill.

By TIM DUNN, News Center 

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