Should corporate lobbyists decide whether safe equipment and procedures are needed if you or a loved one have to go to a hospital or nursing home? Or should health care professionals make those decisions?
That’s the type of issue being debated in our Statehouse and in Congress over safeguards that protect the public’s health and safety.
This month, special interest lobbyists convinced the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a bill — the REINS Act — designed to make it practically impossible for federal health and safety experts to set standards that all corporations must follow. No major safeguard could be adopted unless every single word were approved by Congress.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged the Senate to pass the House bill, arguing it would prevent “intrusive” regulation of the health care and banking industries, in particular.
Studies show the typical nurse lifts 1.8 tons during each shift. Before mechanical lifting devices were required in N.J. hospitals and nursing homes, more than half of nurses reported that they had suffered costly injuries from lifting and moving patients.
Similarly, proven measures to reduce violence against caregivers — lighting, alarms, communication systems, training and more — had been well-known. But these steps were not legally required of all facilities. Fifty-two percent of hospital nurses and radiology technologists reported experience with violence or physical harassment on the job, and patient safety suffered as well.
Fortunately, caregivers, their unions and workplace safety organizations were able to persuade then-Gov. Jon Corzine and the state Legislature to enact statewide standards. By this month, hospitals and nursing homes must establish committees made up of at least 50 percent front-line caregivers to choose and deploy safe lifting devices, violence prevention measures and other required protections.
During hearings on these laws, nurses and other health professionals presented research showing that investing in these safeguards had saved millions of dollars in other states. Facilities saved on medical payments and workers’ compensation; overtime, recruiting and training costs to cover for injured workers; administrative down time; and much more.
Yet corporate CEOs continue to try to block such health and safety protection. They want to use the REINS Act and other legislation to make it easy for corporate lobbyists to block meaningful federal standards on clean air and water, workers’ rights, consumer protection and many other issues. They want to pass legislation in New Jersey that would bar the state from adopting safeguards that the federal government hasn’t enacted.
Safe lifting and violence prevention rules for hospitals and nursing homes are among standards that either don’t exist in our state or are weaker at the federal level.
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Stronger Safeguards Needed in NJ Hospitals, Nursing Homes