CA governor vetoes first-ever zero-lift bill

He cites burdens of new lift team mandate

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have made his state the first in the country to require hospitals to use lift teams. The state legislature passed a bill requiring hospitals to adopt a zero-lift policy by using specially trained lift teams and lift equipment for patient handling. "General acute-care" hospitals in California would need to conduct a needs assessment and implement the program as of Jan. 1, 2006. The bill exempted rural hospitals.

Schwarzenegger said in a statement, the "well-intentioned" mandate was too costly and burdensome. "Although I cannot support AB 2532, I encourage hospitals to review their lift policies to determine the extent to which they can develop lift teams and purchase machinery to assist in lifting patients. I also encourage hospitals to consider incorporating modern lift technologies into new construction and significant renovation projects, including their seismic retrofit activities," he said.

The California Nurses Association made a major push for the bill, as thousands of nurses wrote the governor and urged him to sign it. It also had the support of Kaiser Permanente, the state’s largest hospital provider, which reported a 39% reduction in back injuries over a three-year period with the use of lift teams. The bill requires lift teams to use lifting devices "unless specifically contraindicated for the patient’s condition."

However, the California Healthcare Association, the state’s hospital association, opposed the bill, citing a high cost of compliance. The University of California (UC) hospitals criticized it for not providing enough flexibility. "UC opposes the bill because a zero-lift policy in law sets an unrealistic and unattainable standard that could place patients at risk or delay care," UC said in a statement.