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Dying for Nurses illustration by Alex Eben Meyer hen dozens of nurses from around the state rallied at the Capitol on March 4, everyone had a story. Anita Prinz, from outside Houston, told of nurses having to care for a dozen hospital patients at once. Tom Laughlin, from the Dallas area, said he frequently has to choose which critically ill patient to care for and which to leave alone for a few min utes. There were sad anecdotes about unattended patients falling, unnecessary deaths, and overworked nurses leaving the profession. Even Rep. Senfronia Thompson had a tale. The Houston Democrat, who has filed legislation to require minimum nurseto-patient ratios in Texas hospitals, told reporters that one of her grandchildren had been rushed to a Huntsville hospital a few days earlier with a temperature of 104.6. The child and mother waited four hours and eventually left without receiving treatment. \(The next day, Thompson’s grandchild was diag”This is why nurses quit:’ said Beverly Leonard, a registered nurse for 40 years. “They can’t stand going home at the end of the day and thinking, ‘How could I not treat that kid with the 104 temperature?”‘ Texas ranks 43rd nationally in the number of nurses per capita, with roughly one RN for every 149 Texans in 2008, according to the Texas Board of Nurse Examiners. The Legislature is considering two competing proposals to address the shortage. Thompson’s House Bill 1489 requires hospitals and other inpatient facilities to meet bedside nurse-to-patient ratios. \(Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr., a Houston Democrat, has a Senate Organizing Committee, a branch of the nation’s largest nurses’ union. The group says similar legislation enacted in California in 2004 has greatly improved the quality of care there. The Texas Hospital Association, which helped kill similar legislation last session, opposes ratios, fearing the up-front costs. Hospitals prefer a bill by Sen. Jane Nelson, the Republican from Flower Mound who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Her legislation would give nurses more whistle-blower protection, but would only require hospitals to consider nurses’ input when deciding on staffing levels. The RNs rallying at the Capitol think Nelson’s bill doesn’t go far enough. Hospitals, they said, won’t adequately address the nursing shortage unless they’re required to. Supporters of the Thompson-Gallegos bill also contend that mandated nurse-topatient ratios would actually save hospitals money in the long run by reducing the number of wrongful death lawsuits and lowering turnover rates among RNs. “Nurse-patient ratios work,” Leonard said. “I’ve been at the bedside for 40 years, and I’m here to tell you they work.” Dave Mann Keystone Kounter-Terrorism HUNTING RADICALS IN NORTH TEXAS A bizarre, conspiracy-laden memo sent to almost 3,000 cops, fire marshals and public-health officials in North Texas links mainstream Muslim-rights organizations and anti-war groups to Middle Eastern terrorists, and calls on law enforcement to “report these types of activities:’ The leaked memo, dated Feb. 19 and labeled “For Official Use Only,” is one in a weekly series of “Prevention Awareness Bulletins” put out by the North Central Texas Fusion System, a regional intelligence-gathering center run by the Collin County Department of Homeland Security. Five such fusion centers, designed to consolidate and share intelligence with law-enforcement agencies, have been created in Texas since 9/11. The bulletin has increased fears among civil libertarians and Metroplex Muslims that the North Central Texas Fusion System has edged into spying. “This memo is not a plea for legitimate intelligence and seems to endorse discrimination against Muslims,” says Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. In a letter to state Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw, three Texas faith leaders have called 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 20, 2009