On Friday Judge Judy Hersher of the Sacramento County Superior Court in California ruled that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) illegally delayed the enforcement of a law that would have required hospitals to maintain a one-to-five ratio of nurses to patients. The law, signed in 1999 by former Governor Gray Davis (D), set a ratio of one nurse to every six patients to be met by January 1, 2004, and a one-to-five ratio to be met by January 1, 2005, the San Francisco Gate reports. On November 4 of last year, Gov. Schwarzenegger issued an injunction to delay the enforcement of the higher standard until 2008, maintaining that a healthcare emergency in the state made the new ratio unrealistic.
Judge Hersher wrote in her ruling, “In sum, the determination of ’emergency’ is arbitrary and capricious and entirely lacking in evidentiary support,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The San Francisco Gate reports that Judge Hersher also rejected the administration’s assertion that the new nursing ratios would cause hospitals to close or patients to suffer.
The California Nurses Association sued Gov. Schwarzenegger on December 21 for delaying the law’s effect. The ruling is considered to be a big victory for the group that has been one of the governor’s biggest critics. California’s 400 hospitals will need to quickly add approximately 2,360 nurses to their staffs.
Last December, nurses protesting outside of an event at which Schwarzenegger was speaking prompted the governor to say in reference to the protest, “Special interests in Sacramento don’t like me because I am always kicking their butts.” The Associated Press reports that Kim Belshe, California’s secretary of health and human services, has said that the administration “strongly rejects” Friday’s ruling, and will attempt to block it from taking immediate effect.