Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

January 31, 2023

Sen. Anwar: Rebuilding Health Care In Connecticut In The Post-Pandemic Era

With nearly three years passing since the first confirmed infection of COVID-19 in Connecticut, the health care field in Connecticut has suffered serious damage including staff attrition and a decline in quality of care. State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor), Senate Chair of the Public Health Committee, has introduced several legislative proposals to the General Assembly to address those policies and better prepare Connecticut for future emergencies on a similar scale – including for businesses who may seek to profit off others.

“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were clear flaws and holes in our health care systems, which served as pressure points that could cause further damage in the event of disaster,” said Sen. Anwar. “In 2023, after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, disaster has clearly struck, and the damage is evident. Health care staff are leaving the field, and those who valiantly keep fighting to save lives see their jobs made more difficult. Our hospitals are not prepared for surges of illness; the ‘tripledemic’ of COVID, flu and RSV made that evident, pushing resources to their limit. And in the event of future disaster, the same exploitation and price-gouging seen in parts of the state in 2020 could repeat, enriching a few while financially harming many more. We owe it to ourselves to fight for the future of health care and prevent past problems from arising once again. Otherwise, we may find ourselves repeating what didn’t work in worse circumstances.”

Foremost, Sen. Anwar has proposed mandating nurse-to-patient staffing ratios at the state and federal levels after hearing from nurses in the field – and gaining firsthand experience working as a pulmonologist and physician – of the stressors and issues they’ve experienced while providing care in understaffed, overworked hospitals and care facilities. According to the American Federation of Teachers union, in which doctors and nurses are represented, adding one patient to a nurse’s workload results in a 7% increased risk of in-hospital mortality and a 48% increase in risk of a child being readmitted to the hospital within a month.

At least two bills have been introduced regarding improved staffing through the Public Health Committee. One of them, House Bill 6148, “An Act Concerning Minimum Staffing Levels For Nurses,” would establish minimum staffing levels including one nurse to one patient in operating rooms and for emergency department trauma patients; one nurse to two patients in intensive or critical care units and other key care areas; one nurse to four patients in areas such as pediatric units, emergency departments and telemetry units; and one nurse to six patients in postpartum and psychiatric units.

Additionally, Senate Bill 50, “An Act Concerning Support for Surge Capacity for Emergency Rooms, Hospitals and Nursing Care Facilities,” introduced to the Public Health Committee, would amend the general statutes to require emergency rooms, hospitals and nursing care facilities for emergency or disaster events. The legislation specifically would require those facilities to have adequate stocks of child and adult medical supplies, including common medications.

This bill comes in response to recent waves of illness and infection, including COVID-19 infection waves and the “tripledemic” of fall/winter 2022/23 with increased transmission of influenza and RSV in addition to COVID-19, that have placed enough stress and pressure on health care that traditional and customary medicines saw widespread shortages. It would also serve to protect against additional emergency events like severe weather or mass shootings, ensuring any situation requiring rapid surge medical response would be met with proper response.

Further, Senate Bill 41, “An Act Concerning The Authority of the Office of the Attorney General To Bring An Action Against A Seller Who Engages In Price Gouging During A Disaster or Emergency,” introduced to the General Law Committee, would amend the general statutes to allow the office of the Attorney General to take action against sellers engaging in price gouging in the wake of a major event.

Similar legislation was introduced in 2022, but not passed, with intention of fixing laws in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. While price gouging is illegal during emergency declarations, the Office of the Attorney General lacked the ability to crack down on suppliers, wholesalers or rental and leading businesses; in 2022 testimony, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said price gougers would be able to continue to profit in the event of a future emergency should the law not be changed. Such an action would not only provide increased protection in the wake of mass illness but additional emergency situations such as extreme weather.