Essentia Health, Mayo Clinic react to Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act

This comes after a change to the bill was made last week to exempt the Mayo Clinic from the proposed rules.
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:04 AM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - With just days to go in the legislative session, one of Minnesota’s largest corporations dropped a bombshell.

As lawmakers were working to find a compromise on the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, many hospitals including Essentia Health spoke out last week.

The Mayo Clinic now has threatened to pull a multi-billion dollar investment if the state passed new staffing committee protocols within the act.

This comes after a change to the bill was made last week to exempt the Mayo Clinic from the proposed rules.

“This legislation really got subsumed by a fight among corporate entities male and the other corporate hospitals and it essentially dominated and replaced the debate that we’re having about nursing and patient safety,” states Senator Erin Murphy, a DFLer from St. Paul.

This last-minute threat unraveled negotiations on the bill that was almost complete.

“It became a debate about an exemption among corporate entities that took over the debate,” adds Senator Murphy.

Essentia Health’s administration stated the proposals are simply bad for Minnesota and the bill does little to remedy the nurse staffing problem.

Instead, they said the focus should be on supply, hiring more nurses.

One of the main issues Essentia and other state hospitals addressed was a potential 15% reduction in hospital capacity which would threaten access for about 70,000 Minnesotans.

Dr. Bill Heegaard, President of Essentia Health’s East Market, said mandates never work, especially in healthcare, when he said it should be dynamic.

Essentia Health urged lawmakers to heed the warnings from healthcare systems across the state including the largest healthcare system, the Mayo Clinic.

“As evidenced by all of the CEO’s signed a letter to the Minnesota Hospital Association, that is unique, in that they all signed this, saying that this will hurt, not help patient care and access and that is especially true in rural Minnesota,” said Dr. Heegaard.

Essentia leaders said they disagree about the exception for Mayo Clinic from the proposed rules.

They are working on retention, listening to their own nursing staff to find solutions in their hospitals.

Leaders also suggested a solution would be to use the state surplus to increase the workforce.

The Minnesota Hospital Association said there are more than 5,000 open positions.

Dr. Heegaard stated the focus should be to work together to invest and build that nursing pipeline.

“What we’re doing is to make sure our staff is available to provide the care, if President Heegaard wants to throw on some scrubs and join me at the bedside and provide the care, I’d love the help, but I think that scaring Minnesotans isn’t the way to do it,” said Chris Rubesch, First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Lawmakers who championed the original bill couldn’t justify carving out an exemption for just one company.

Now they have created a new bill altogether, the Nurse and Patient Safety Act.

“We didn’t get everything that we wanted,” explains Senator Murphy. “We’re not going to get everything that we thought we have in this provision. That is going to go to the floor of the House and Senate tonight and become law is important transformative work for nurses.”

The new bill is a shell of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act.

It contains all the same language on nurse safety provisions and loan forgiveness programs.

However, it guts any and all safety provisions contained in the original bill.

It is still a bill lawmakers say is necessary.

“This legislation is going to take us one step closer in pursuit of our efforts,” says Senator Murphy.

“Today my heartbreaks with patients across Minnesota,” says Mary Turner, President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “We came here to pass the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, but because of the power and influence of corporate healthcare executives that bill has died.”

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