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February 15, 2005
Kennedy Calls for Curbs to Forced OT for Nurses

Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has proposed legislation that would prohibit hospitals from requiring nurses to work past their scheduled work shifts unless the federal, state, or local government declares an official state of emergency, the Boston Globe reports.

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While nurses would be able to work overtime voluntarily, hospitals that force nurses to work overtime would face $10,000 in civil penalties, the newspaper reports. Under the legislation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would investigate complaints.

The newspaper notes that the legislation is quite likely to see strong opposition in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Kennedy says that he believes the legislation would improve care and encourage more young people to choose nursing as a career.

Hospital groups oppose the legislation, saying there are other ways to attract people to nursing without imposing restrictions on mandatory overtime.

"We have had a long and fruitful relationship with Senator Kennedy and we would like to work with him on the nursing shortage issue," says Paul Wingle, senior director of communications at the Massachusetts Hospital Association. "But these restrictions would impair the ability of caregivers to meet the demands of patients on the spot."

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