ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic threatened this week to withdraw an undisclosed, billion-dollar infrastructure project from the state of Minnesota if DFL leaders move forward with two health care bills that Mayo opposes, according to an email first reported by the Minnesota Reformer and independently confirmed by KARE 11.
In the email to DFL leaders, a Mayo Clinic official said "We will need to direct this enormous investment to other states" if they do not modify the legislation.
Mayo's concerns center around two bills. The first, known as the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, seeks to limit patient loads by putting more nurses on hospital staffing committees, while the second would establish a Health Care Affordability Board. The DFL-led House and Senate have already advanced both bills this session into larger budget bills, and they're currently finalizing the measures to send to Gov. Walz for his signature.
"At the heart of this," said Dr. Amy Williams, the Chair of Midwest Clinical Practice at Mayo Clinic, "is legislation we believe will negatively impact access to care and our ability to transform health care to support our staff and meet the evolving needs of our patients."
But DFL legislators, as well as the Minnesota Nurses Association, are pushing back.
Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton), the House author of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, said she was "very surprised" by what she called Mayo's "ultimatum."
"The language that Mayo has provided would exempt nearly -- if not all -- hospitals in Minnesota, and would make the rest of the bill pointless," Feist said in an interview. "So, we can't move forward with that language. But I would very much love to work with Mayo to finesse that language, to ensure that it exempts hospitals that are safely staffed where nurses have a voice, and where this bill isn't as necessary."
Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner, meanwhile, ripped Mayo after learning of the email.
"To have, at the last minute, corporate health care -- big business -- come swooping in, and basically holding our state hostage?" Turner said in an interview. "It's despicable. And it's dirty politics."
Turner accused Mayo of wanting "total control over everything that has to do with patient care assignments."
"That's what is behind this whole thing, is control. And they're using money, obviously, threatening us with a billion-dollar operation that they'll move," Turner said. "If there's one thing nurses know how to do, it's mobilize, and organize, and fight back. Because we do it every day at the bedside."
Despite not having power in either chamber, at least one Republican legislative leader rushed to defend Mayo on Friday. Sen. Paul Utke, who has spoken against the staffing bill this session, released a statement saying that "Mayo Clinic, along with many other businesses, school districts, and even the Wall Street Journal are raising alarm bells about the sweeping changes Democrats are rushing to implement."
"Nowhere else do you see the reckless abandon displayed by Gov. Walz and legislative Democrats to expand their agenda," Utke continued, "and transform our once business-friendly state that fueled innovation and created one of the strongest economies in the nation, into something that makes even the most loyal hometown businesses reconsider."
Rep. Feist, however, said she's "optimistic" about a compromise.
"If they will come back to the table, I am sure that we can work together," Feist said, "to find language that ensures this bill achieves its goal, and can also address Mayo's concerns."
Gov. Walz also addressed the Mayo situation during a session with reporters on Friday. Although he said he's not aware of the specifics related to Mayo's planned investments, he said he recently spoke with Dr. Gianrico Farrugia of Mayo Clinic and heard their concerns.
"We've always supported making sure our nurses are supported, have what they need. We also understand that Mayo Clinic is a unique entity where it's focusing globally... I know that's being worked on right now," Walz said. "I think we can get a compromise that works for everyone."
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