HHS allows lax nurse requirements for hospitals, lawsuit charges

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Several nurses' associations filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services. They alleged the agency allows hospitals to participate in Medicare even when they fall short of federal nurse staffing requirements.

HHS permits the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which accredits 82% of U.S. hospitals, to use separate nurse staffing requirements for hospital accreditation, the lawsuit charges. Hospitals can participate in Medicare through accreditation by JCAHO.

Among the alleged discrepancies: JCAHO does not require hospitals to adjust nurse staffing schedules to meet patient needs when nurses change shifts or miss work, as federal requirements mandate. The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, asks the court to require HHS to comply with federal nursing staffing requirements.