I am a hospital bedside nurse who retired five years sooner than planned because of poor working conditions created by hospital administrators’ management decisions. The pandemic did not create this problem. This is not a new problem. In fact, 2020-2021 was a brief period when I was confident of the care I delivered because of a temporary decision by management to maintain low nurse-to-patient ratios for COVID-19 patients.

Earlier this month, I testified in Augusta in favor of L.D. 1639, an act that mandates nurse-to-patient ratios. As we left the hearing, a speaker who had spoken against the bill attempted to commiserate. He was the representative of a business also at the mercy of decisions made by hospital administrators. As an olive branch, he offered: “There are no easy solutions!”

L.D. 1639 is not the full solution, nor will the law be easy to administer. However, the bill acknowledges there is no solution – either easy or difficult – that doesn’t include greater public oversight of the value-laden decisions made by hospital administrators. It introduces one tool that has worked in California since 2004, without any of the dire outcomes opponents predict will happen here.

Every member of the public should have a say in the delivery of health care. I encourage people to contact our state legislators and ask them to support this important oversight of how hospitals deliver that care.

Kenneth O’Brien

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