About 4,800 nurses, who are members of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), went on strike June 19 at five hospitals in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Allina Health, the company that owns the hospitals, insists that all is well with 1,400 replacement nurses filling in (video below)
The MNA asserts there has been delayed care for patients, closure of units and confusion in finding supplies, and plans to report the issues to state regulators.
"We will be asking our regulatory agencies here in Minnesota … to be looking into these situations in order to protect Minnesota patients," Mat Keller, of the MNA, told the Star Tribune.
One striking nurse said that she got a text from a manager who couldn’t find an IV tray that had been locked up in a storage unit.
Allina Health officials admitted that two surgical recovery units have closed at Abbott Northwestern hospital in Minneapolis, and a rehabilitation unit has closed at United Hospital in St. Paul.
However, Allina Health officials added that most of the patient care is going along as normal, and that doctors and staff are happy with the replacement nurses.
Abbott's ER had to send some patients to other hospitals on June 19.
"We make a promise every day to our patients that we will deliver safe and high-quality care," Abbott’s president, Dr. Ben Bache-Wiig, said.
Allina Health wants the nurses to switch from their union-backed health care plans (paid for in part by Allina Health) and move over to the company’s health insurance.
Allina Health officials insist that switching to the company's coverage, which other hospital employees have, will save $10 million per year. Allina Health said that money could be used for patient care.
The $10 million "means a whole lot to what service we’re able to provide," Dr. Penny Wheeler, Allina Health's chief executive, said.
Rose Roach, executive director of the MNA, told "RT America" host Ed Schultz on June 20:
We came to the table asking Allina to talk with us about safe patient staffing ratios, as well as work place violence prevention, which has become a tremendous issue in our hospitals these days.
Unfortunately, the employer is focused pretty much on one thing, and one thing alone, and that is to move the nurses out of the good affordable decent health care plans that they have and into the corporate plans which are higher in out-of-pocket costs.