MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota hospitals say they have plans in place to continue patient care as thousands of nurses in the Twin Cities, Duluth and Two Harbors prepare to go on strike for a second time this year.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association voted to authorize a strike, less than two months after the union carried out a three-day work stoppage in September amid calls for better contracts, pay and staffing.
Thursday morning, MNA leaders announced that unless a deal is reached, the strike will begin at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11. Nurses in the Twin Cities and at Essentia plan to strike through 7 a.m. on Dec. 31, 2022, while nurses at St. Luke’s in Duluth and at Lake View in Two Harbors will go on strike with no set end date.
Fifteen-thousand nurses at 16 hospitals in seven hospital systems will join the strike.
In a statement, Allina Health said they are "deeply disappointed" with the union's decision to strike. Allina added that it has asked MNA to use a "neutral, independent mediator to help us resolve our remaining differences."
"Allina Health remains committed to reaching an agreement that reflects the valuable contributions of our nurses and will negotiate with the union again on Dec. 2. While we are hopeful a deal can be reached, we want to assure the public that we have plans in place to continue caring for our community with as few disruptions to care as possible," the hospital said.
The Twin Cities Hospitals Group, which represents Children's Minnesota, Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital, Fairview Health and North Memorial, added that hospital leaders at those locations have "contingency plans in place" ahead of the anticipated strike.
"Over the coming 10 days, our negotiators will be available to negotiate in good faith and we will exhaust all means necessary to avoid a work stoppage. We expect the nurses’ union to do the same, including being fully engaged at all tables with a mediator," a representative for TCHG said in a statement.
In statements following the strike announcement, both Allina Health and Twin Cities Hospitals Group reiterated that the union's decision to strike comes in the midst of an ongoing "triple threat" of COVID, RSV and influenza that is currently putting a strain on the health system.
For eight months, nurses have been negotiating contracts that include better wages, increased staffing and more security protections.
"We don't want to be out on that sidewalk. That decision now rests with our hospital executives," said Angela Becchetti, a registered nurse at Abbott Northwestern Hospital and member of the MNA Board of Directors. "They can come back to the bargaining table and agree to fair contracts for nurses to solve the crisis of understaffing, care and retention in our hospitals. We want to reach an agreement at the bargaining table to keep our nurses at the bedside and protect patient care."
Thursday afternoon, Children's Minnesota leaders talked publicly about their concerns.
"We are already starting to look at what procedures will need to be deferred for patients during a strike. We are talking about closing units, we will almost certainly have to close our mental health unit as well as critical care units and other difficult decisions in the days to come." said Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO of Children's Minnesota.
He said one of his biggest concerns is timing with what he calls an unprecedented and dire situation with RSV.
"I've been in pediatric medicine since 1987 and I've never seen anything like this," Gorelick said.
Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Emily Chapman shared her concerns, too.
"The reality is that, in a set work stoppage, the critically ill children will need to be transferred to other hospitals outside of Minnesota to neighboring states," Chapman said.
Gorlick also said Children's Minnesota is preparing for replacement nurses.
"323 nurses we have been told we will get. Some of those nurses may not materialize because of the licensing issues and so on but that's the contingent we're hoping to get to help out with staffing," said Gorlick.
That number, filling about a third of the 1,000 nurses who could strike at Children's Minnesota. Gorlick said he hopes it doesn't come to that point.
"We have been bargaining with the union for months. Today, as we speak, even right now, our team is meeting with Children's Minnesota and the Minnesota Nurses Association in what is, I believe, our 32nd bargaining session. We have been asking for months to bring in a mediator. If we're stuck, let's get some help. The union has refused mediation at our table," said Gorlick.
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