Risks to patient safety on rise in Minnesota hospitals

Hospital Corridor 2015 is shaping up to be one of the worst years on record for patient safety in Minnesota hospitals. So far in 2015, the number of unsafe staffing incidents has leapt by 40 percent over last year, when risks reached record levels. Between January 1 and September 1 of this year, Minnesota nurses submitted 1,778 Concern for Safe Staffing Forms. Nurses use the forms to report situations in which patient safety is at risk due to nurse fatigue, skill mix, and short staffing by hospitals.

The steep rise is significant. In 2013, for example, nurses reported a total 1,354 unsafe staffing incidents for the entire year. At this rate, 2015 could nearly double previous years’ reported incidents.

The rise in unsafe staffing levels comes at a time when hospitals are reporting record profits. According to the Star Tribune, Minnesota’s 10 largest hospital systems saw operating income surge by 38 percent in fiscal 2014 compared to the previous year. Some hospitals, the story reveals, are increasing income by reducing labor costs.

Nurses around the country are sounding alarm bells about hospitals focusing on profits over patients. A recent story in Scientific American notes that nurses across the United States are forced to make uncomfortable assessments every day because hospital administrators don’t want to spend money on ample staffing.

“We have more nurses in the U.S. than we’ve ever had before,” said Linda Aiken, director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s really the lack of budgeted positions in hospitals.”

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