(WASHINGTON, D.C.)—Bobby L. Harnage, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), issued the following statement today in support of the Safe Nursing and Patient Care Act of 2001:
“Forcing an already overloaded nursing staff to work an extra shift is a prescription for medical errors and reflects a lack of commitment to patient safety.
“AFGE members working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) are desperately upset that management continues to use mandatory overtime to staff wards rather than increase staffing to a safe level.
“DVA is asking its nurses to risk patient safety by forcing them to care for too many patients and work too many hours. And DVA nurses are being put in the difficult and untenable position of trying to deliver high quality patient care during the 15th hour of a double shift without adequate nurse coverage.
“The Safe Nursing Patient Care Act of 2001 would prohibit the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime for nurses in hospitals as a condition of Medicare reimbursement. But, since the majority of federally-operated medical facilities do not receive Medicare reimbursement, this bill would not limit the use of mandatory overtime at DVA.
“However, this legislation does take an important step to curb this dangerous practice in DVA and other federally-operated facilities by requiring the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review mandatory overtime practices and policies at DVA and other federally-operated medical facilities. OMB would then provide recommendations to implement policies and practices that are consistent with these new Medicare requirements on mandatory overtime.
“The use of mandatory overtime is a shortsighted response to inadequate staffing, which only worsens staffing problems, places patients at risk and puts extraordinary burdens on direct patient care staff.
“Requiring OMB to recommend that DVA maintain practices that are consistent with the safe staffing practices of non-DVA medical facilities will improve the quality of care at DVA and protect the safety of veterans who receive medical care at DVA.”
AFGE represents 135,000 DVA employees, nationwide—60% of all DVA employees.