Pennsylvania Bill To Limit Mandatory Overtime For Health Care Workers

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The Pennsylvania Legislature has approved legislation that would ban mandatory overtime for nurses at all health care facilities in the state, and Gov. Ed Rendell (D) is expected to sign the measure into law this week, the Philadelphia Daily News reports. The state Senate voted 49-0 to approve the bill last week, and the House voted 189-11 to approve the measure (Hyclak, Philadelphia Daily News, 10/13).

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The bill would prohibit health care facilities from requiring nursing and other health care employees to "work in excess of agreed to, predetermined and regularly scheduled daily work shifts." Nurses could voluntarily work overtime after a 12-hour shift but could not be fired for refusing overtime. Health care facilities still could require overtime if there is an "unforeseeable, declared national, state or municipal emergency;" if there is a "highly unpredictable and extraordinary event," such as a terrorist attack; or when a facility has a large amount of unforeseen absences by employees (Barnes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/7).

The ban will take effect July 1, 2009, to give health care facilities time to hire more nurses. The Daily News reports that understaffing is one reason nurses are required to work overtime. A 2004 study by University of Pennsylvania researcher Ann Rogers found that the risk of medical error was up to three times higher when nurses worked shifts of 12-and-a-half hours or longer (Philadelphia Daily News, 10/13).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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