The Legislature is considering a bill that could potentially be devastating for our rural hospital.

L.D. 1639 would impose government-mandated nurse staffing ratios on all non-governmental hospitals in Maine (ironically, the majority of the Legislature’s Labor Committee voted to exclude the state’s psychiatric hospitals so it wouldn’t add a fiscal note to the bill).

The bill would put into law the exact number of nurses required to staff hospital units, regardless of patient acuity, nurse experience, or any of the other factors our nurse leaders use to decide how to provide excellent patient care. Failure to meet these ratios would result in a $10,000 fine to the hospital — and even the potential to fine a nurse who fails to adhere to the mandate.

This is an example of the government going a big step too far.

As a past Western Maine Healthcare board member, I can attest that the government holds our hospitals accountable to quality standards and we should all be proud that Stephens consistently scores very well. Regulatory oversight over hospital outcomes makes sense. But government shouldn’t tell hospitals how best to achieve that quality.

Rural health care is under much stress. We continue to see closures of OB/GYN care, for example. This community is fortunate that Stephens has remained strong, absorbing many of the patients who lost access to local services. L.D. 1639 would mandate inflexible staffing requirements — at great financial cost — which will only weaken our fragile health care system.

I strongly urge our legislators to oppose L.D. 1639.

Kevin Carleton, South Paris

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