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Bill to protect patients and health care workers gains momentum as Senate Judiciary Committee passes ban on mandatory overtime, health care workers union reports

(11/10/2023) -- The Pennsylvania Service Employees International Union (SEIU) reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Tuesdat to pass a bill that would protect patients, nurses, and other health caregivers by banning the use of mandatory overtime except in cases of unforeseen catastrophic events.

According to a press statement issued by the union, thousands of nurses, other health care workers, patient advocates, and supporters have pulled out all the stops to campaign in Harrisburg and home districts for a ban on mandatory overtime, a practice that endangers patients and contributes to the shortage of nurses and other health care workers.

The gathering forces behind the bill are pressing for a swift floor vote in the Senate, according to the press release. If the bill passes in the Senate, it will head to the House of Representatives where proponents hope the bill is approved before the end of this legislative session, according to the press release. Governor Rendell is expected to sign the bill if it passes, according to the release.

"An exhausted health care worker is not a safe health care worker," said Kim Patterson, Vice President of SEIU District 1199P, Pennsylvania's largest health care workers' union. "The Senators on the Judiciary Committee should be commended for their action to protect Pennsylvania's sick and elderly. The rest of our lawmakers must not go home at the end of this session without passing this bill."

According to the release, the Patient and Health Care Worker Protection Act, SB 722, would end the dangerous practice of mandating direct health caregivers to work past their scheduled shift, except in the case of unforeseen emergencies.

Ten states - including neighboring states of New Jersey and West Virginia -- have placed restrictions on the practice of mandatory overtime, according to the release.

According to the release, Terri Evans, a registered nurse at Crozer Chester Medical Center in suburban Philadelphia and President of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals said a study released in July by Ann Rogers, an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing showed a direct link between medical errors and "work duration, overtime, and number of hours worked per week."

Citing the study, Evans said that, "40% of nurses were working more than 12 hours at a time. What's more, when nurses work more than 40 hours in a week, the rate of errors triples. Mandatory overtime is literally killing our patients, and driving good nurses out of the profession," according to the release.

For the Ann Rogers study on the link between overtime, and long work hours to increased risk of medical errors: content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/23/4/202

The recent Health Grades study on the rates of medical errors: www.healthgrades.com/media/english/pdf/HG_Patient_Safety_Study_Final.pdf

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