Governor Rendell Ceremonially Signs Bill To Improve Patient Safety

Harrisburg, PA (CompNewsNetwork) – Governor Edward G. Rendell said today that Pennsylvania continues to take steps to improve patient safety and quality of care by ensuring that health care workers are not forced to work excessive overtime. He made the announcement during a ceremonial signing of House Bill 834 - now known as the Prohibition of Excessive Overtime in Health Care Act.
"We owe it to citizens to provide the best possible health care, and we owe it to our health care workers to protect their health and welfare by not forcing them to work excessive hours," Governor Rendell said. "When this law takes effect next July, it will help to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors."
The act protects the public by ensuring that health care workers are not overworked. Under the new law, a health care facility cannot, except in specific circumstances, require an employee to work in excess of an agreed to, predetermined and regularly scheduled shift. Overtime can be mandated when an unforeseeable emergency circumstance occurs and the assignment of additional hours is a last resort; the employer has exhausted reasonable efforts to obtain other staffing; and the employer gives the employee an hour to arrange for family care. The act also prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who refuses to work overtime.
"In the current system, health care workers are often forced to work overtime - sometimes working 12 to 16 hours or more in a single day," Governor Rendell noted. "That puts a tremendous strain on workers while also creating the potential for medical errors. We must do all we can to prevent medical errors that needlessly harm patients."
Institute of Medicine research has confirmed that long work hours and overtime contribute to medical errors. The Institute also attributes anywhere between 44,000 to 98,000 hospital deaths to medical errors.
The act covers employees involved in direct patient care activities or clinical care activities who receive an hourly wage and who are non-supervisory. It also covers most every hospital, rehabilitation hospital, local health facility, cancer treatment center using radiation therapy, in-patient drug and alcohol facilities and county and local health facility. It includes commonwealth facilities operated by the Department of Corrections, the Department of Health, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Department of Public Welfare.
The law will be enforced by the Department of Labor & Industry. Violators can be fined from $100 to $1,000 per violation. Governor Rendell originally signed House Bill 834 (Act 102 of 2008) on Oct. 9. It takes effect on July 1. The Department of Labor & Industry has 18 months to promulgate regulations for the new law.

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