Lawmakers need to pass safe patient handling bill

It’s been years in the making; can we get it done in 2013? Health care professionals have been advocating for safe patient handling legislation to improve patient care in New York for years. These efforts have resulted in the introduction of the safe patient handling bill with bipartisan support from the State Senate and Assembly, yet it fails continually to be signed into law.

This legislation assures caregiver access to “safe patient handling” equipment, training and monitoring that will keep patients safe. Use of equipment will prevent injury to patients and health care workers caused by tugging, lifting and pulling.

Safe patient handling equipment improves outcomes. Patient satisfaction improves, because they feel safe in devices made for enhancing mobility. Caregivers reduce their risk of occupational injury resulting in loss of work and/or career. Health care systems reap the benefits by improving patient outcomes, averting costly workers’ compensation claims and patient lawsuits from preventable injuries. This legislation is a win-win-win situation.

Safe patient handling programs work, but many institutions have not invested in them. Return on investment (ROI) is cited as a barrier, but National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health evidence shows a one- to three-year ROI, with additional savings to follow. Successfully, Kaleida Health partnered with CWA 1168 in implementing a “zero lift program” in 2004. The program morphed into a “Safe Patient Handling” program that continues to improve outcomes today. It makes sense to implement such programs, but legislation is needed to assure the safety of our patients and the health care workforce.

Now is the time to pass this legislation. Our patients and caregivers can’t afford to wait any longer.

Mary Brogcinski, R.N., M.S.N.