MINNEAPOLIS -- Nurses with Allina Health will start returning to work Sunday as the union's seven-day strike is scheduled to end at 7 a.m. Picketing continued at the five affected Allina Health hospitals up until Saturday night.
Allina has started calling some nurses back to work, even though a new contract deal has not been reached between the two parties.
"You know it's been a difficult week for us but it's been a very rewarding week too," said Lisa Kielas, a nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
For the strike, Allina brought in about 1,400 replacement nurses.
Molly Donovan of Minneapolis said her grandma was admitted to Abbott Northwestern Friday. Donovan voiced several problems she had with the care her grandmother received, including complications with an IV that caused infiltration--leaking of IV fluid into the tissue--in her grandmother's arm.
"The communication between everybody just seems like it's a huge mess because the people who know the hospital, the people who know what should be happening, the people who understand the protocol and care about this place, aren't able work because they're not being respected," Donovan said.
Allina Health insisted that patients were receiving exceptional care from the replacement nurses.
"It's the world-class care that we pride ourselves in providing. I can say with confidence that at no point during the last week that I felt that this was compromised," said Dr. Raed Abdelhadi, a cardiologist at the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern.
Meanwhile, no negotiations have taken place this week between Allina and the Minnesota Nurses Association. Nurses want safer working conditions and to keep their current health insurance. Allina wants them on the corporate plan that has lower monthly premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs.
"We're looking forward to getting back to the bargaining table as soon as possible. Our focus this week has really been on providing safe patient care and so we'll be turning... back to the negotiating table," said Mandy Richards, chief nursing officer at United Hospital.
According to Richards, Allina is calling nurses back to work based on patient numbers and the need at each hospital. That call could come 8-12 hours before the shift.
Kielas got the call that she will be returning to work on Tuesday.
"It's difficult going back knowing that we still have to reach a resolution. But I feel stronger as a nurse group and, you know, I need to be at the bedside with my patients. So that's where I belong. But yes, this is not the end for sure," Kielas said.
According to Allina, there are no scheduled negotiations. However, Allina said they will be able to focus on that next week.