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Putting it simply, the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) wants to improve hospital patient safety in Texas. Interim President Rossia Avery and organizer Richard Stephens appeared on KNON's "Workers Beat" radio talk show on October 17. At lunch, they joined other NNOC leaders, other nurses, and aides from some of North Texas' most influential political representatives to discuss their legislative program in detail. The entire document can be downloaded from www.nnoc.net.
Ms Avery makes it very clear that the big Texas nurses' organizing drive is not trying to win a pay raise or even better working conditions. They hope to get the 2009 legislature to vote for the "Hospital Patient Protection Act" that covers basic elements of patient safety already enacted into law by the California Legislature and in the works in a number of other states.
Hedy Dumpel, National Chief Director of Nursing Practice & Patient Advocacy, explained its technical features. The nurses want Texas to have an enforceable law preventing hospital administrators from loading patients onto registered nurses beyond a reasonable expectation of safety. They want every patient covered by competent nurses at all times, including nurse breaks and lunches. They want to end administrators' regular practice of moving nurses around the hospital with no respect to their training and abilities, just to be able to claim that patients were "covered."
They also want to be able to speak up for patient safety. Currently, they risk being fired every time they speak up, Avery says. Their legislation would provide "whistleblower" protection so that professional nurses' opinions could actually be taken into consideration.
One smaller aspect of the proposed legislation required extra explanation. Dumpel said that the nurses do not want to be overruled by machines when it comes to patient safety. Increasingly, hospital administrators are relying on computerized programs of hospital care based on the health care needs of average patients. Dumpel said that there are no average patients; but that each patient must be considered individually by competent professionals.
The machines, of course, are cheaper. It points to the essential difference between the registered nurses and the hospital administrators. One group is sworn and committed to providing care for their patients, the other group is sworn and committed to making money for their stockholders.
Working Americans may not agree on every aspect, but just about all of us agree that health care reform is necessary. Without arguing the various proposals, we should all take note of one important fact: wherever health care reform has become a reality, it was organized health care professionals who made it happen. The reason that Texas is so far behind on health care issues is that we have, until this year, had almost no organized health care workers. The more we can help the nurses' organizing drive and their legislative program, the more likely we are to get positive change!
Nurse Avery explains a point to Senator West's aide, La Juana