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Report: Minnesota Hospital Care Doesn’t Always Top the Charts

November 14, 2007

St. Paul, MN – Are Minnesota hospital patients getting the best care available? Maybe not, according to a report to be released today. Carrie Mortrud with the Minnesota Nurses Associationsays it finds many healthcare facilities may not have enough qualified staff to meet patients' needs.

"We found that 90 percent of Minnesota residents believe that understaffing affects patient care. 30 percent have actually experienced negative outcomes due to understaffing."

She says there were almost 100,000 deaths nationally because of medical errors caused by lack of professional staff. According to Mortrud, the study was intended to focus on Minnesota problems and solutions, but found that the main reasons for errors include a lack of opportunities for nurses to upgrade their skills; and budget limits at some healthcare facilities. The result of the latter is understaffing, which can lead to big problems for nurses on duty.

"The care that can't be delivered on time, the medications that aren't delivered on time, and the lack of teaching and planning that they have to do with their own patients. The patients go home sooner, sometimes with much less in terms of resources. So, we're expected to do more at the bedside than ever before with sicker patients."

Mortrud says Minnesota nurses report that patients sometimes are admitted and given a bed, but there's no one there to care for them. She argues the shortage of trained nursing professionals is unhealthy, and needs to be addressed. She sees an obvious answer that, she explains, is often rejected in contract negotiations.

"We know, if there's a minimum standard set, that a nurse cannot have more than a certain number of patients at a specific time, that he or she then could deliver the care necessary to the patient."

Mortrud acknowledges that many hospitals are under financial pressure to control costs, and setting a minimum staffing requirement may require legislation. However, she argues that cost-cutting isn't in the best interest of patients.

Jim Wishner/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - MN