By a 70-30 vote, Massachusetts communities in last week’s election rejected ballot Question 1’s rigid, unit-by-unit, patient-to-nurse ratios that would have been imposed on all hospitals at all times.
In polls, exit interviews, and through anecdotal feedback, many voters indicated they heard nurses’ concerns that they are often asked to perform their caring jobs under very demanding conditions. But voters, often relying on their RN friends or relatives for Question 1 advice – and realizing that many nurses were opposed to the question – felt that determining hospital care through a popular vote was the wrong prescription for change. They voted NO against a ballot question they knew would be expensive to implement with no clear evidence that the change would improve care.
MHA’s President & CEO Steve Walsh, who began his post at MHA last November and has been focused on coordinating the healthcare community’s response to Question 1, said, “The voters of Massachusetts voted to protect patient safety and support the best healthcare and hospital system in the country. This is not a victory, but an opportunity to continue to find solutions together as health care professionals -- working together, as one, for patients. Question 1 forced some difficult and necessary discussions about the future of healthcare and the future of our workforce going forward. These conversations with our care teams and in our communities have been critically important and will continue in bargaining sessions, legislative debates, board rooms, and newspapers. MHA will play a key role in these conversations, and our members will continue to rely on us to protect the nation’s best healthcare system.”
Question 3, which upheld a state law protecting transgendered rights and which MHA strongly supported, also won a very wide margin.
Now that the focus on Question 1 has abated, MHA will redouble its efforts on a series of topics that staff have continued addressing despite the political turmoil: substance use disorders; Alzheimer’s and dementia care protocols for caregivers; the state’s innovative MassHealth ACO program and new hospital MassHealth RFA contract; federal strategies to maintain provisions of the Affordable Care Act; strategies to lower infection and readmission rates; a statewide Healthcare Safety Summit on December 4; reforms to dual-eligible programs; workforce safety and wellness initiatives; and promoting a Caring for the Caregiver initiative – among many, many other patient-focused issues to which MHA and its membership are committed.