By Alexi Cohan

Emergency department wait times at Massachusetts hospitals will change for the worse if the Question 1 ballot initiative on nurse staffing ratios passes, according to Tufts Medical Center.

In a press release yesterday, the hospital said if the mandate passes and limits the number of patients assigned to a nurse, wait times will soar and potentially cause the hospital to turn away patients at emergency room doors. Tufts joins the Coalition to Protect Patient Safety, which is leading the “No on 1” campaign, in voicing concern about the impact of the mandate on emergency services.

“The quality of care will be worse at every hospital in the state if this measure passes,” said Dr. Brien Barnewolt, chief of emergency medicine at Tufts.

Gov. Charlie Baker announced yesterday he will vote “no” on Question 1, citing increased costs to the health care system and concern for community hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers that “would have their operational future put in jeopardy if that law were to pass.”

“Many of these community hospitals are critical care access providers in their districts,” Baker said in a statement.

The Committee to Ensure Safe Patient Care, which is leading the “Yes on 1” campaign, denied claims of increased emergency department wait times in a press release, saying hospital executive opposition is trying to “scare” voters.

“As an emergency department nurse for more than 30 years it simply defies common sense to claim that having more nurses on hand to treat patients in the ED would increase wait times or harm patients in any way,” said Kathy Reardon, an emergency department nurse at Steward Norwood Hospital in the statement.

Laura Carideo, an emergency room nurse at Tufts, said although more nurses may be on staff, it does not mean wait times will be shorter, “Yes, we may have more nurses, but we still don’t know what will come in. You can’t staff for the what-if,” said Carideo. She said wait times “will 100 percent go up,”and she may be forced to give patients some unfortunate news: “I’m going to have to tell them that they may have to wait longer and I am going to find that extremely challenging.”

According to a poll released yesterday by UMass Lowell, 51 percent of 791 surveyed, registered voters oppose question one while 43 percent are expected to vote yes on the mandate. The poll found 5 percent of voters were unsure and 1 percent declined to answer.

A WBUR poll released Sept. 25 previously showed a divide in voters with 44 percent in favor of question one, 44 percent opposed and 12 percent undecided.

Read the story at the Boston Herald »