Lawmakers throughout the Capitol in Olympia heard stories about patient safety and the need to improve healthcare by expanding Medicaid during our 30th annual Lobby Day as nurses and healthcare workers from across the state took action to improve healthcare quality and access.
“I routinely work 8 hours without going to the bathroom, and 8 hours without eating,” Elizabeth Lambshead, an RN at Swedish Medical Center told legislators. “I had already worked a full day when I got called to another hospital to help when they were short on staff. When I got there I had patients who hadn’t seen a nurse for more than an hour. I was tired and exhausted by the time I arrived at the hospital, so this was unsafe for me, and it was also not safe for my patients.”
Stories like this are why nurses and healthcare workers are supporting HB 1095 to provide guaranteed, enforceable staffing levels in our acute care and state psychiatric hospitals. HB 1095 will provide hospital staffing committees with the authority to determine staffing levels above the minimum standards and to determine the appropriate levels of other nursing staff such as CNAs and Unit Secretaries.
Increased nurse staffing results in shorter lengths of stay and lower rates of urinary tract infections, upper gastrointestinal bleeding, pneumonia, shock, cardiac arrest, and death from preventable causes.* These incidences result in significant and heartbreaking pain and suffering for patients and their families and our hospitals also bear the increased costs.
If our hospitals want to continue receiving full Medicare reimbursements they must meet quality benchmarks under the Affordable Care Act. Hospitals that fail to prevent bedsores, hospital acquired infections, or re-admissions within 30 days will not receive full reimbursement. Improving staffing reduces these incidences and will protect hospital funding.
“Every day nurses and healthcare workers do not have adequate staffing to give our patients the care they need and deserve. Staff frequently work 12 hour shifts without the meal or rest breaks the law allows. Management cite the budget as a reason they can’t give us the staffing they agree we are supposed to have. Our current law is not good enough,” said Analisa Allen, an RN at Swedish Medical Center.
Nurses, healthcare workers, and mental health workers also shared stories about why we need to expand Medicaid in our state.
Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will allow hundreds of thousands of people to get needed mental health services, vaccines, and cancer screenings, and provide management of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic conditions that drive up healthcare costs. Medicaid is also the primary funder of community mental health and chemical dependency services for our patients and clients.
Years of continued deep budget cuts have slashed healthcare and human service programs to the bone, leaving thousands without access to services when they need it most.
“So many people have lost access to Medicaid in the last 3 years,” Ramona Marshall, an Adult Case Manager at Behavioral Health Resources told legislators.”
“Without the care they need they end up in emergency rooms or jails, costing all of us more. One of my clients was getting back on her feet and working full time to support her sons. She was cut off from TANF services and she didn’t have access to healthcare through her job. Without the mental health support she needed her progress fell apart. She ended up in the hospital and she lost her job. This was a huge disruption to her life, and also for her kids and treating her in the hospital cost more than it would have to keep her in our community mental health system,” Ramona said.
Our legislators will be deciding if our state will expand Medicaid to help more than 250,000 people. Adopting the full Medicaid expansion will save Washington at least $225 million in the next biennium and create more than 10,000 jobs.
Without action from our legislature people with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level will not have access to healthcare coverage, resorting to emergency rooms and jails for care, and driving up costs for everyone.
Failure to expand Medicaid will also hurt local hospitals. Washington hospitals are counting on Medicaid expansion to mitigate the impact of $3.1 billion in cuts over 10 years under other healthcare reform changes.