California's Health and Human Services department vowed to fight a Sacramento Superior Court judge's order Friday to enforce strict nurse-to-patient ratios in hospital emergency rooms and medical-surgical units. Judge Judy Holzer Hersher's ruling said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrongly used an emergency regulation in November to loosen ratios in ERs during unexpected surges in patients and put off until 2008 dropping the ratio in medical-surgical units from 1-to-6 to 1-to-5, a switch originally scheduled for Jan. 1.
The California Nurses Association, which sued Schwarzenegger and the California Hospital Association to enforce the stricter ratios, hailed the judge's decision. Frank Furtek, chief counsel for California's HHS, said the agency would file an appeal this week and ask a judge to temporarily block Hersher's order. Hospitals -- faced with a nursing shortage and tight budgets -- will be forced to turn away patients or scale back services if the stricter ratios go into effect, the CHA said in a statement. -- by Melanie Evans