Rural Minnesota hospitals: Staffing bill would drastically hurt patient care

With the Minnesota legislative session slated to end May 22, rural hospital CEOs in the state are warning of what they say are consequences for patient care if a staffing bill becomes law, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

At issue is the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, which would require hospitals to form hospital nurse staffing committees to set staffing levels. The state would evaluate each hospital's compliance with its own staffing plan. The bill also includes workplace violence prevention and loan forgiveness programs.

Hospital leaders told the media May 16 they fear the bill would exacerbate challenges rural hospitals already face, the Duluth News Tribune reported. Among the financial challenges cited are financial and workforce strain.

Carrie Michalski, president and CEO of RiverView Health in Crookston, said RiverView had to close its skilled nursing facility earlier this spring amid the strain and that the staffing bill as written would add administrative burden onto teams, according to the newspaper.

"This session, as someone that's geographically far from the Capitol, it's been feeling like the real world realities of rural healthcare are just not being understood and heard in St. Paul," Ms. Michalski said. "To mandate a one-size-fits-all across a variety of hospitals and sizes and resources and geography just does not make sense."

The Minnesota Nurses Association, meanwhile, hails the bill as a comprehensive approach to nurse staffing and retention. It is calling on Gov. Tim Walz to sign the bill as written. 

"Someday, all of us and our loved ones will need care in a hospital," the union said in a May 12 news release. "When that day comes, we deserve to know our hospital will be staffed with highly skilled healthcare professionals able to provide the quality care we need and deserve."

However, hospitals and health systems are warning that nonprofit hospitals are "in trouble" if the bill becomes law as is. 

On May 5, the Minnesota Reformer reported that Rochester-based Mayo Clinic is considering pulling billions in investments from Minnesota over the bill. Mayo has since doubled down on its stance against the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, and the Star Tribune reported May 15 that the state of Minnesota is moving forward with a plan to exempt Mayo from the bill.

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