For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Ken Zinn 240-235-2008 or Korey Hartwich 240-235-2006

RNs Join Council Members, Community Leaders to Demand Safe Patient Staffing Bill in District of Columbia

WASHINGTON - In an effort to dramatically improve care at District of Columbia hospitals, registered nurses represented by National Nurses United joined with D.C. Council members and community leaders at a press conference this morning to announce the introduction of the 2015 Patient Protection Act.

Modeled after a successful California law, the 2015 Patient Protection Act sets specific limits on the number of patients RNs can care for (nurse-to-patient ratios) in Washington, D.C.’s hospitals.

Press conference speakers included bill co-sponsors Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Council members Elissa Silverman, Charles Allen and Vincent Orange, NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN and other nurse leaders, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO spokesman Chris Garlock, and faith leaders Rev. Graylan Hagler and Rabbi Gilah Langner.

"This legislation is very important to ensure quality of care for residents of the District of Columbia," Mendelson emphasized. "Hospitals are shortchanging patients by shortchanging staffing."

“The public correctly expects government to impose standards on most industries, to protect public interest, public health and public safety,” said Ross. “Hospital patients are also entitled to safety standards; sadly, there are no such standards written into law here in the District of Columbia. Minimum, mandatory ratios have been in force in California since 2005, and they have improved patient care outcomes dramatically.”

Registered nurses, who “see the crisis every day” are fighting for this bill because protecting patients is an intrinsic part of their calling, said Stephanie Simms, RN, an NICU nurse at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “Direct care nurses applaud the sponsors of the Patient Protection Act for their willingness to put the people first, to improve patient care at our hospitals, and to heal DC by enacting this legislation,” Simms said.

Initially introduced in early 2013, the Patient Protection Act has been ferociously opposed by the wealthy hospital industry lobby. District of Columbia RNs along with Council and community supporters are unrelenting in their fight for safe patient staffing and have included several key additions and improvements to the 2015 proposed legislation. Sixty-five organizations in the District of Columbia are backing the legislation.

Local faith leaders also spoke out at this morning’s press conference, including Rabbi Gilah Langner, who underscored the “special place in [her] heart for those who heal the sick and comfort the afflicted,” and the Rev. Graylan Hagler who said that in the community fight for nurses to get the resources to deliver quality care, “No one is going to stop us!”

This call for official legislation on safer staffing comes at an especially critical time in D.C., as local RNs at MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC) and Providence Hospital have recently been forced to strike over issues including hospital management reducing staff to dangerous levels.

“I joined with my fellow nurses at Providence to become part of National Nurses United because patient safety standards at Providence are not what they need to be,” said Fidelis Kweyila, RN, medical-surgical nurse at Providence. “Nurses at our hospital and hospitals across this city are short staffed and stretched thin, which makes it impossible for us to give patients the care they need and deserve. We will not rest until the Patient Protection Act is enacted in the District of Columbia so that every patient is protected.”

LaKisha Little, RN—President of the DC Nurses Association/National Nurses United and NICU nurse at Children’s National Medical Center—agrees, saying, “I became a nurse to provide safe, therapeutic care and to save lives. When babies and their parents need me I should be there for them. Every nurse here can tell you that short staffing too often puts our patients at risk. That’s got to end. Now.”


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National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.

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