Nurses scheduled rallies around the country late last week to protest the substitution of registered nurses by lower-salaried unlicensed personnel and reduced staffing levels on hospital floors. In Washington, nurses were set to rally at the Capitol and then march down Pennsylvania Avenue (See related story, p. 44). Organizers hoped that 10,000 to 20,000 might attend. In Redwood City, Calif., nurses planned to set up an informational picket line at the Kaiser Permanente hospital. In Portland, Ore., nurses were to march in support of a resolution in the state Legislature. In New Jersey, nurses wore black arm bands to mourn reductions in the quality of care. In Chicago, the Illinois Nurses Association was scheduled to hold a hearing on the effects of hospital restructuring and RN replacement, followed by a rally.
A federal jury in Miami last week cleared a group of 13 hospitals in southern Florida of price-fixing charges stemming from their creation of a "preferred provider program" for temporary nursing services. The plaintiffs in the case, four nursing agencies that were excluded from the hospitals' preferred list, sued the hospitals in 1988. They claimed that the hospitals, through their local hospital association, conspired to limit nurse agency fees during the throes of the nursing shortage. The 10-member jury in U.S. District Court agreed with the hospitals that they didn't have enough collective market power to fix prices and the program was a legal group purchasing organization, said Richard Feinstein, an antitrust attorney who represented the hospitals.
The Joint Commission's 28-member board took no major policy actions at its long-anticipated retreat, said a spokeswoman for the troubled accrediting agency. The retreat was held March 24-26 at the Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in Aventura, Fla. Last December all signs pointed to the retreat as the potential flash point for a major shakeup of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, as provider criticism reached its peak. JCAHO executives were able to defuse the situation by announcing a series of corrective actions and policy changes during the three months before the retreat. The steps included a demonstration project to test a new accreditation system and a plan to address providers' service complaints.