MASSACHUSETTS — State voters in the mid-term elections overwhelmingly rejected a ballot question that would require nurse-to-patient ratios in hospitals.

Hospital and physician groups had opposed the measure, which had been pushed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The
latter said it would make patients safer, but opponents decried further regulation.

Gov. Charlie Baker (R) had said he opposed the measure in October, explaining that it would have cost the state $900 million. Providers on all sides also said they worried about the ability to attract talent if the measure passed. The ballot lost steam even among nurses, with an April poll finding 86% of registered nurses were planning to vote for it. That had dropped to 48% by mid-October. Opponents included the American Nurses Association Massachusetts.

“We are all disappointed by tonight’s results and the impact this will have on the patients we care for every day,” said Donna Kelly-Williams, MNA President. “We know that right now — as I speak to you here — there are nurses caring for too many patients, and those patients are unnecessarily being put in harm’s way.”

California is now the only state to have a mandatory requirement for a nurse staffing ratio.

MIDWEST

Kansas reduces drugs

KANSAS — The Sunflower State made major progress in reducing antipsychotic use in nursing homes, according to new data released by the National Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes.

Kansas had dropped to a 17.4% rate of long-term nursing home residents on antipsychotics in the first quarter of 2018, down from a high of 26%. The state had lagged towards the bottom at the end of 2017.

Deb Zehr, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Kansas, told the Kansas City Star that 34 of the nonprofit nursing homes her organization represents are now under 10% for antipsychotic use.

LPN guilty in death

OHIO  — A former licensed nurse practitioner has been found guilty on two charges related to a nursing home resident who eloped and died.

Megan Schnipke, 32, worked at Hilty Memorial Home in January when a 76-year-old woman left the facility. The resident’s  cause of death was hypothermia.

Part of the state’s case against Schnipke related to her documenting that the resident had been resting in her room through the night. Later, Schnipke said she had been given that information by an aide who later admitted she had lied about checking on the resident.

A jury found Schnipke guilty in early November of forgery and gross patient neglect. Sentencing was scheduled to take place in 30 to 45 days.

Voters OK joint resolution

MISSOURI — While the minimum wage is set to start rising in Missouri next month, residents will have to wait a bit longer for medical marijuana.

The increase in January will move the minimum wage to $8.60 per hour, with plans for it to be $12 by 2023. Voters passed Proposition B with more than 62% of the vote.

Additionally, those with glaucoma, epilepsy, cancer, HIV-AIDs and other chronic conditions can seek medical marijuana starting next year.

By early June 2019, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services must make public the application forms and instructions for both marijuana cultivation, testing and dispensary facilities, and start accepting applications from patients in July.

The measure lists a 4% tax on retail marijuana sales, which will go toward veterans’ healthcare, and is expected to generate $18 million in fees each year.

SOUTHEAST

Provider files for bankruptcy

FLORIDA — A Boca Raton-based operator has filed for bankruptcy, citing declining reimbursement and more than $500 million in unpaid bills.

Promise Healthcare Group, which has two skilled nursing facilities and 14 long-term care hospitals across nine states, has around $565 million in obligations.

NORTHEAST

Home care bill goes down

MAINE — Voters said no in November to a referendum that would provide universal home care to all seniors and those with disabilities.

The Universal Home Care Program would have covered around 27,000 Maine residents. But it was criticized by long-term care providers and various healthcare associations. The plan was to fund it through an additional 3.8% income tax on residents earning more than $128,400 a year.

WEST

Wildfire causes evacuation

CALIFORNIA — Three skilled nursing facilities burned down due to a massive forest fire in Butte County in November.

A large-scale evacuation in Paradise, CA, was a result of the “Camp Fire” that left at least 59 dead and 9,000 homes destroyed. One facility said 80% of its staff had lost their homes.