California assembly bill 2532 would have made concepts like lift-teams, zero-lift policies and lift-assist equipment mandatory components of health care in the state, had it been turned into law. But in September, 2004, the state’s governor vetoed the bill drafted by the California Nurse’s Association (CNA) on the grounds that it was too costly for the industry.
“Because I am concerned about the financial burden hospitals are already under, I cannot support the costly mandate imposed on them by AB 2532,” wrote California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a message regarding his decision to veto the bill. “Although the goal of having all hospitals implement a standardized lift policy that includes lift teams and modern equipment is laudable, it need not be mandated in statute. Procedures to limit injuries caused by the lifting patients should already be a part of a hospital’s mandatory Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).”
Nurses groups didn’t agree that the law which, if passed, would have been the first of its kind in the nation, was bad for business. “A number of hospitals and hospital systems already provide lift teams, including Kaiser Permanente, which supports AB 2532, and says its zero lift policy has reduced RN back injuries by 39 percent,” said a CNA press statement. The group also noted that the bill had a potential cost benefit for hospitals as well through the reduction of injuries. “Besides causing RNs intense pain, back injuries are adding to the state’s workers’ compensation costs and exacerbating the nursing shortage by cutting RN careers short,” the group said. Twelve percent of nurses who leave the field do so because of back injuries, said CNA; another recent study that found that 52 percent of all nurses complain of chronic back pain that may be linked to lifting patients.
While Schwarzenegger didn’t pass the bill, he did recommend that hospitals “review their lift policies to determine the extent to which they can develop lift teams and purchase machinery to assist in lifting patients.” He also suggested that “modern lift technologies” be incorporated into new construction and renovation projects at hospitals.
Are lift teams and lift policies a good idea for healthcare? See two sides to the issue in this week’s issue of The Ergonomics ReportTM, available online for subscribers at www.ergonomicsreport.com.
Sources: SFGate; Californiahealthline.org; www.governor.ca.gov