Debate Over Patient Limits Ballot Initiative Heats Up

BOSTON (AP) - A ballot initiative pushing for mandated staffing levels in hospitals across the state has the backing of the state's powerful nurses' union, and the ire of industry groups.

A proposal backed by the Massachusetts Nurses Association would set limits on the number of patients assigned to a nurse at a time.

The Boston Globe reports union nurses say they feel overburdened, and worry about patients falling through the cracks.

 They say understaffed hospitals leave patients at an increased risk of infections and falls.The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association calls the idea "unreasonable," and that hospitals would need to hire at least 4,500 new nurses at a cost of $880 million per year to comply with the law if it passes.

Union advocates must collect several thousand signatures of support by July to get the measure on the November ballot.

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