MA Nurses Rally at the State House about New Rules
A health care cost containment bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature in August goes into effect on Monday and includes a ban on mandatory overtime for nurses.
Under the new law, hospitals cannot require nurses to work overtime, and a nurse's regularly scheduled shift cannot exceed twelve hours in a twenty-four hour period.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association calls mandatory overtime a "dangerous practice," and proclaimed a victory when the bill was passed in August. David Schildmeir is a spokesman for the MNA. He says requiring nurses to work overtime usually means a hospital is not sufficiently staffed. He says patients are better served when more nurses are available to work shorter shifts.
"When you have more nurses, there are less infections, less bad things happen to patients, patients get out of the hospital faster and better and saves millions of dollars."
The law allows an exception for mandatory overtime in emergency situations. Kerry Damon, human resources director at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, says what constitutes an emergency is not clearly defined in the law. She says the hospital has spoken with union nurses about the ongoing transition away from mandatory overtime.
"We both recognize this is something new and we're going to have to take it day by day and just be in a lot of communication with one another about what this means for both the nurse, the hospital, and most importantly, the patients."
Baystate Franklin has been in contract negotiations with its union nurses for a year. One of the key sticking points has been a proposed change in THE overtime pay scale. Damon says she does not believe the new law will not have a direct effect on the negotiations, but Donna Stern, a chair of the nurse's bargaining unit, says she feels the law presents challenges to Baystate. For New England Public Radio, I'm Henry Epp.