On October 17 California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed Senate Bill 171, legislation aimed at ending the manual lifting and repositioning of patients, for the fourth year in a row.
The “Hospital Patient and Health Care Worker Injury Protection Act” was passed again by the California senate on 13 October. It required the establishment of a zero lift policy and lift teams within general hospitals. Senate Bill 171 also required each hospital to establish a patient protection and healthcare worker injury prevention plan based upon a needs assessment. In the absence of the veto, the legislation would have become effective on July 1, 2008.
The bill’s sponsors and supporters argue that the backs of health care workers just can’t take the ongoing burden of lifting and repositioning patients manually. They also point to the risk of injury and skin tears to patients when they are handled.
A news release from Work Injured Nurses’ Group (WING) USA stated that Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that certified nurse assistants, registered nurses, and licensed practical nurses together, 95 percent of whom are women, consistently lead the nation in work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The news release also states that the data also shows that California leads the nation in MSDs suffered by its workers, and that the risk of patient handling injury escalates with an aging nursing workforce and with rising patient acuity and obesity. WING also points to such injuries, and injury potential, as contributors to a nationawide shortage of nurses.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger states: "This bill, which imposes a one-size fits all mandate on hospitals to establish a "zero lift" patient handling policy, is similar to measures I have vetoed the last three years. While I continue to support the goal of reducing workplace injuries, I remain convinced that this inflexible mandate is a poor alternative to giving hospitals the flexibility needed to achieve this goal in the manner that most efficiently addresses each hospital’s needs and resources."
Seven states have enacted safe patient handling legislation, and it is working its way through the legislatures of nine other states and the United States House of Representatives.
The national bill, HR 378 Nurse and Patient Safety and Protection Act of 2007, was re-introduced January 10, 2007, by US Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and remains in committee. HR 378 would “direct the Secretary of Labor to issue an occupational safety and health standard to reduce injuries to patients, direct-care registered nurses, and other health care providers by establishing a safe patient handling standard.” It promises to alter the picture for patients and healthcare professionals alike – if it passes.
SOURCES: Work Injured Nurses’ Group (WING) USA; California Legislative Information (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov)