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Lawmakers approve modified nursing bill ahead of deadline

The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, renamed the Nurse and Patient Safety Act, lost its controversial Mayo exemption and cemented workplace protections for nurses.

ST PAUL, Minn. — In the waning hours of the Minnesota Legislature's 2023 session, the authors of the Nurse and Patient Safety Act — formerly known as the Nurses at the Bedside Act — outlined new details in the plan, including the ouster of a controversial carveout for the Mayo Clinic.

The agreement was made following weeks of back and forth between the state's nurses, lawmakers and hospital systems, finally reaching a compromise that officials say effectively focuses on safety for both hospital nursing staff and patients.

The bill easily passed both the House and the Senate, and was the final bill approved by legislature ahead of the deadline.

One of the co-authors of the original Bedside Act — which went through multiple hearings in both chambers of the legislature this session — Assistant Majority Leader and registered nurse, Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), said while nurses didn't get everything they wanted and needed in the final version of the bill, supporters still consider it a "big damned deal."

"We came to the session fighting for our efforts to keep nurses at the bedside," said Murphy. "What we have in this provision is important, transformative work for nurses, for direct care workers, and the patients in their care."

The new plan includes violence prevention in hospitals; a requirement for hospitals to submit annual reports to the Minnesota Department of Health over any workplace violence incidents; and a provision for loan forgiveness. Murphy said the bipartisan compromise was reached in an effort to keep nurses at the bedside, with an opportunity to give them a "seat at the table."

Murphy said the recent debate over an exemption from the bill for Mayo Clinic ultimately "dominated and replaced debate around safety" for nurses and patients, calling the demand "offensive" and the "real barrier" to the passage of the bill in its original form.

Earlier this month, Mayo Clinic threatened to pull millions of dollars in investments out of Minnesota should its health system be included in the bill.

"Corporate power in health care is real," Murphy said. "We touched it and it pushed back."

Fellow Assistant Majority Leader and registered nurse Sen. Liz Boldon (DFL-Rochester), echoed Murphy's sentiment, saying the deal that was reached isn't perfect, but it has successfully met its goal of protecting workers' and patients' rights. However, Boldon maintained there's still much work to be done to ensure further workplace protections in the years ahead.

"All session, we have done as a legislature, we have done really great work in terms of protecting workers' rights, and making sure we're not leaving people behind," Boldon said. "I'm really proud that with this bill, we are not leaving any nurses behind."

President of the Minnesota Nurses Association Mary Turner also spoke about the new legislation, claiming although there are strong safety provisions included in its new version, the same "strong-armed bullying tactics" they encountered with entities like Mayo are the "same tactics nurses experience every day in the workplace."

"Today, my heart breaks for the patients in Minnesota. We came here to pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act," she said. "Because of the power and influence of corporate health care executives, that bill has died."

She went on to thank the lawmakers who authored and championed the bill, saying they stood with nurses to resist the "crushing power of corporate demands."

"I hope your corporate executives and our public officials know that our fight is not over to put patients before profits in our health care system," she said, adding, "We always have and we always will be up here to fight for our patients and to fight for the people of Minnesota.”

Late Monday, the Minnesota Hospital Association released a statement, saying, in part:

"The Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) is unwavering in its support for legislation addressing workplace violence and the workforce shortage confronting our statewide system of care. We affirm our commitment to work in collaboration with our dedicated care teams, including nurses, and welcome all assistance in addressing these challenges in service of those who matter most - our patients.

As we move forward, we remain resolute in our commitment to work closely with the legislature and caregivers to address the ongoing challenges faced by our nonprofit hospitals and health systems as we remain focused on caring for our patients and communities. We acknowledge that there is much work to be done, and we remain devoted to ensuring that the best possible care is accessible to all Minnesotans."

Part of the larger $2.6 million Infrastructure Bonding Bill, the Nurse and Patient Safety Act was brought to the floor of both chambers on the last official night of session Monday. It's expected to pass, making way for a forthcoming signature from Gov. Tim Walz.

Mayo Clinic also sent KARE 11 a statement following the approval of the modified nursing bill Monday night:

“In particular, we are thankful to Gov. Walz and his team for their exceptional partnership and leadership," said Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., president and CEO, of Mayo Clinic. "Gov. Walz, Speaker Hortman and Majority Leader Dziedzic have expressed firm support for Mayo Clinic and for our desire to grow and invest in health care and our communities. We share the goal of making Minnesota the state that leads the future transformation of health care.

We remain grateful for our nurses, and all health care workers, who serve patients with dedication and compassion every day. We share the governor’s and legislature’s commitment to continue addressing the challenges facing nurses — including nationwide staffing shortages and increasing violence against health care workers — just as we remain committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation to cure, connect and transform health care for patients in Minnesota and around the world.”


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