Bill Would Mandate Nurse-to-Patient Ratios

NNOC says its legislation stronger than Howard's

Sen. Mario Gallegos (l) and Rep. Senfronia Thompson (center) with members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee
Sen. Mario Gallegos (l) and Rep. Senfronia Thompson (center) with members of the National Nurses Organizing Committee (photo by Lee Nichols)

The National Nurses Organizing Committee has landed sponsors for its legislation to mandate minimum nurse-to-patient ratios in Texas hospitals, and took a swipe at Austin Rep. Donna Howard’s HB 591, which would elevate the role of nurses in staffing decisions but not mandate ratios.

Last week, Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Sen. Mario Gallegos, both of Houston, filed the Texas Hospital Patient Protection Act (HB 1489/SB 1000). Thompson said she decided to sign on with the bill after her granddaughter went to Huntsville Memorial Hospital with a 104.6 temperature and waited more than four hours and ultimately left untreated.

“Those nurses were so overburdened with people coming into the ER, and here’s a child almost having seizures,” Thompson said. Gallegos said he was motivated by his brush with death after a liver transplant last year.

In a press release, the NNOC said, “The Texas Hospital Association has proposed legislation to block safe RN-to-patient ratios and instead only encourages hospitals to publish their staffing plans, safe or unsafe. This voluntary proposal would leave Texas’ crisis of unsafe staffing unresolved and an ongoing threat to patients, leading RNs to oppose THA’s bill and support HB 1489 and SB 1000.”

“The NNOC's statement is not accurate,” replied Howard, whose bill is supported not only by THA but by the Texas Nurses Association as well. “As a former critical care nurse … I have tried to do my homework regarding mandated nurse staffing ratios, and those efforts have led me to conclude that the data simply does not exist to support them.

“The political reality at the Capitol can be summed up by the fact that the NNOC testified before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee yesterday asking for provisions they believe would strengthen HB 591,” Howard continued. “Instead the discussion among committee members focused on whether or not some of the major provisions in the bill that would improve nursing whistleblower protections and strengthen anti-retaliation provisions related to mandatory overtime should be removed.”

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Health and Human Services, National Nurses Organizing Committee, Senfronia Thompson, Mario Gallegos, Donna Howard, Texas Hospital Association, Texas Nurses Association

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