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State taking input on new overtime ban for nurses

Panel: 4.4 percent increase would result in about a $300,000 gap

A state agency that is developing policies for the new health care reform law is taking public comment this week about the ban on mandatory overtime for nurses.

Signed into law this past summer, the ban prevents a hospital from forcing its nurses to work overtime — a clause included to reduce medical errors, which state officials say sometimes occur when nurses are tired and working beyond eight- or 12-hour shifts.

But the law allows for an exception during an “emergency situation.” A new state agency, the Health Policy Commission, will define what constitutes an emergency after it hears from the public.

Baystate Franklin Medical Center nurses and hospital administrators, who have debated the overtime issue during their ongoing contract negotiations, interpreted that clause in different ways last November, when the law went into effect.

Hospital officials said that any situation with an increased patient load or reduced staffing, like flu season or multiple nurses taking sick days, could constitute an “emergency.” Nurses took it more literally to mean disaster scenarios like a hurricane or a train crash.

Friday, 9 a.m., in Worcester

State officials will conduct a listening session this Friday at 9 a.m. at the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital Conference Center.

Written comments will also be accepted in person at this time or may be submitted electronically to Lois Johnson at lois.johnson@state.ma.us. Questions can be directed to 617-979-1400.

For more information, go to the health policy commission’s website at: http://www.mass.gov/anf/budget-taxes-and-procurement/oversight-agencies/health-policy-commission/

Chris Shores can be reached at:
cshores@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 264

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