Minnesota healthcare workers call on hospital CEOs to act on staffing crisis

Amid a COVID-19 surge in the state, nurses in Minnesota are pleading with hospital CEOs and public officials to address what they describe as a staffing and retention crisis inside facilities.

The nurses, who are represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, aired their concerns during a press conference Dec. 20. Those who spoke included Mary C. Turner, RN, union president and a COVID-19 intensive care unit nurse at Robbinsdale-based North Memorial Hospital, as well as nurses from Allina Health's Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Children's Minnesota, Sanford Health's Sanford Thief River Falls Medical Center, and Edina-based M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital.

"To our patients, I want to say this: Nurses will be here when you need us," Ms. Turner said. "To our hospital CEOs and elected officials, please hear us: Nurses need more than words, we need action to address the crisis of staffing and retention in Minnesota hospitals."

Nurses at the press conference described conditions inside their facilities, including full ICUs and emergency departments, and described steps elected officials and hospital executives can take to improve retention and staffing levels. These included efforts to schedule nurses at preferred times, meeting equitable pay and bonus compensation levels, providing more ICU training to nurses and approving leave requests for paid sick and vacation time. 

Nurses expressed their concerns as Minnesota recently hit a milestone of 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the state, according to the state public health department.

In statements shared with CBS affiliate WCCO, health systems highlighted their hiring efforts and emphasized their commitment to supporting healthcare workers. 

Children's Minnesota said it has used more aggressive recruitment strategies to hire critical staff, which has resulted in hiring more than 550 positions since the end of August. 

"We've also strengthened our retention policies. We recognize the significant challenges healthcare staff have faced these last two years and continue to have open dialogue to find solutions to this unprecedented situation," the health system's statement reads. 

Minneapolis-based Allina Health, in its statement, acknowledged "the growing frustration of the nurses, physicians and other care team members who are doing everything possible to care for a sustained surge of patients." 

"We remain focused on doing everything we can to support our care teams and the communities we serve who need us now more than ever. We have been very transparent in asking the public to step up and do their part by taking all public health measures to help alleviate the incredible strain on our health care system," Allina Health added. "This is especially important during the holidays, and in light of growing influenza infections and the omicron variant."

For the week ending Dec. 18, the omicron variant accounted for 73.2 percent of new infections in the U.S., genomic surveillance data from the CDC shows. 

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