Debate Heats Up in Massachusetts Over Controversial Ballot Question 1

Supporters of Question 1 say their opponents are spreading a lot of misinformation

Supporters of Question 1 were joined by the Boston Firefighters Union as it endorsed the ballot question that would establish ratios limiting the number of patients, usually to about four, that can be assigned to an individual nurse.

Union President Richard Paris says, “With more nurses, emergency wait times are shorter not longer when hospitals have enough nurses to care for their patients.”

But opponents, who held their own news conference, say wait times in emergency rooms would be greatly extended if Question 1 passes and the current high level of nursing expertise could be compromised.

“We run the risk of having to hire nurses with less experience who we worry about, can they be the best people to take care of patients who present to the emergency department,” says Martha Rafferty, director of Emergency Services at Emerson Hospital. 

Opponents say they worry about a practice known as “holding the wall.”

Paramedic Lisa Nasuti of the Mass Ambulance Association explains, “This is when the emergency medical personnel sit with their patients in a hall, in an ambulance, in a parking lot, until a nurse can be free to care for them.”

But supporters of Question 1 say their opponents are spreading a lot of misinformation.

Ellen MacInnis works in the St. Elizabeth Medical Center Emergency room and says, "We would never leave patients sitting in an emergency waiting room or untreated.”

A new report by the Health Policy Commission says the ballot question could cost upwards of $900 million. Supporters of Question 1 say that number is outrageously inflated and more like $40 million.

Advocates on both sides of will face-off in a televised debate on Oct. 24, only on NBC10 Boston.

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