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Mayo Clinic exemption proposed to nurse bill

As work toward the compromise continues, the remaining hospitals, and the nurses union, are crying foul.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota legislators are working on a potential change to a nurse staffing bill that could effectively exempt Mayo Clinic Rochester from the proposed rules.

The development is generating pushback from those on opposite sides of the proposed legislation. Both the Minnesota Nurses Association and Minnesota Hospital Association are opposed to the potential carve out.

"The mere fact that there is an alternative being considered just validates the point that the underlying bill has issues," said Dr. Rahul Koranne, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA). "We have a workforce crisis — over 5,000 open RN positions — we have a financial crisis for non-profit healthcare systems, what we need from the legislature right now are lifelines, not mandates. If there is an alternative that is made available to one healthcare organization, that must be available to all."

"I would think (the other hospitals) would be concerned," said Mary Turner, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA). "I wouldn't like it if my competitor got an unfair advantage or an unfair edge." 

Though the MNA is fighting for the staffing legislation, and MHA is fighting against it, they both take exception to the sudden move towards a compromise that applies only to Mayo Clinic Rochester.

The movement comes days after the hospital system sent an email to state lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz saying it would send billions of dollars worth of planned investments out of the state in response to two proposed bills, including the Keep Nurses at the Bedside Act. 

In a statement on Friday, the Mayo Clinic took it's opposition to that specific bill public.

"This bill imposes a government-mandated staffing model and complex regulatory structure that will limit the autonomy and flexibility needed to allow Mayo to do what it does best — innovate and meet the needs of our patients, our staff and the communities we serve."

During a live interview on WCCO on Sunday, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, first suggested that an exemption for Mayo Clinic is in the works.

"I believe there is a compromise that we will be agreeing to either today or tomorrow that does treat Mayo differently because Mayo is different," Hortman said. "Mayo is an asset known all over the world. There are not other hospitals in the state that have kings and princes flying in to stay to get treatment."

In a statement to KARE11 on Monday afternoon, Hortman added:

“We are continuing to work to find a compromise on the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act. Nurses have been stretched to their breaking point, and they deserve to know — and patients deserve to know — that there are safe staffing levels at Minnesota hospitals. The Mayo Clinic is a unique, world-class health care institution. Any final agreement will not make everyone happy — that is often the nature of a compromise.”

Representative Sandra Feist, DFL-New Brighton, who authored the house version of the staffing bill, spoke to KARE 11's Kent Erdahl about the potential for a compromise that would exempt Mayo Clinic Rochester.

Rep. Feist: "My goal is to ensure that this is the strongest possible bill that will protect the most patients and the most nurses in Minnesota. I am heading into each one of these situations with that goal and just continue to express my concerns that any hospital that would be outside of the protections that this legislation seeks to enact."

Kent Erdahl: "What's your response to the Speaker's words then, yesterday that maybe the Mayo Clinic needs to have it's own carve out?" 

Rep. Feist: "Those conversations are ongoing and I am very grateful to be part of those conversations."

Erdahl: "Any response, specifically, to what she said though?"

Rep. Feist: "I would prefer that every hospital in Minnesota and every nurse in Minnesota received the same protections, but I am working with Mayo Clinic, with leadership, with the nurses to just make sure that we can get this bill across the finish line." 

Erdahl: "If there were to be a carve-out for the Mayo Clinic, do you understand why the Hospital Association would be upset by that?"

Rep. Feist: "I suppose, but there is no policy reason why there should be a carve out for any hospital, but I think we can't be naïve about the fact that this is politics... and that means that a lot of voices need to be in the room, a lot of interests need to be taken into account, and we need to be thoughtful and methodical and open to compromise in order to get a bill like this across the finish line."

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