by via California Nurses Association

Registered nurses will gather at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay on Thursday to speak out about the UC Medical Center’s failure to provide RNs with legally mandated safe lifting practices, the California Nurses Association (CNA) announced today.

RNs say the lack of necessary safe patient handling resources puts nurses and patients at risk—in violation of the Hospital Patient and Health Care Worker Injury Protection Act (AB 1136). CNA sponsored AB 1136 and campaigned for its passage over the objections of the hospital industry, including the UC medical system.

“In my unit, in order for staff to help with lifting equipment or be available to help move patients, they must leave their patient assignment,” says UCSF RN Maureen Dugan. “Nurses are concerned. We need UC to follow the law and add critical staff so we can take care of our patients.”

Help with lifting is critical, nurses say, as studies have shown back injuries are the main contributing factor for 12 percent of nurses who leave the profession every year—and 99 percent of musculoskeletal disorders from patient handling are the result of overexertion from lifting too much weight, or too often. According to the Centers for Disease Control, musculoskeletal injuries from overexertion in healthcare occupations are among the highest of all U.S. industries.

All hospital campuses in the UC system have been out of compliance with AB 1136, nurses say, with UCSF drawing particular concern. In 2013, UCSF unilaterally eliminated its official “lift teams,” becoming the only UC Medical Center without dedicated and trained staff on hand specifically to help move patients—for example, to transfer them from a bed to a gurney, to reposition them in bed, or to help them out of bed to use the bathroom.

As required by AB 1136, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA)’s new Health Care Worker Back and Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention regulation took effect on October 1, 2014. The new regulation requires each covered hospital to have a Safe Patient Handling policy that replaces “manual lifting and transferring of patients with powered patient transfer devices, lifting devices, and lift teams, as appropriate for the specific patient and consistent with the employer’s safety policies and the professional judgment and clinical assessment of the registered nurse.”

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