Letter to the Editor: Question 1 proposal on nurse staffing would harm community health centers

To the Editor:

 As leaders of community health centers already challenged by a statewide nursing shortage, we are joining the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers in opposing Question 1. The proposed mandated nurse staffing levels at hospitals would drain nurses from community-based primary care settings. It is at these community-based settings that critical preventive and chronic care take place. Nurses are the backbone of our community health center workforce. Not only are they fundamental to providing patients with the highest level of care, but they also hold the front line against the opioid epidemic and other public health crises in our communities.

 What’s more, the threat of service cuts and increased wait times at community hospitals as a result of the mandated staffing ratios will disproportionately affect our patients. In most cases, community hospitals serve as the single entry point for lower-income residents to receive specialty and inpatient care when they need it. Many of our patients struggle with chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease, and depression – conditions that require attention from all levels of our healthcare system. While health centers support all nurses in their goal to provide high quality care, we do not believe that Question 1 is the best way to achieve that aim. The unintended consequences are too far-reaching, placing the health of the state’s most vulnerable communities at risk.

 Chuck Jones
President & CEO 
Harbor Health Services, Inc.
Phillomin Laptiste
Executive Director
Bowdoin Street Health Center
Stan McLaren
Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center