Unsuccessful negotiations between Allina Health and the Minnesota Nurses Association ended Saturday morning after a 22-hour session as both sides were unable to reach an agreement. As a consequence, a strike will start at 7 a.m. Monday at Abbott Northwestern and the Phillips Eye Institute in Minneapolis, United Hospital in St. Paul, Unity Hospital in Fridley and Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids.
While nurses say Allina is proposing a health care plan that would leave them with less coverage, Allina claims its proposed changes are necessary to meet budgetary restrictions. Nurses, who want to keep their union-backed health insurance, believe the health care company could think about cutting other parts of the budget. They are trying to avoid out-of-pocket expenses.
Allina Health said 1,500 replacement nurses had been hired from across the country to cover 4,800 nurses who will walk off their job starting next week at five Twin Cities hospitals. Allina Health’s vice-president of communications, David Kanihan, said that about 50 percent of the temporary nurses worked during the previous strike and are familiar with Allina Health’s facilities, according to a report by CBS Minnesota.
The 1,500 temporary nurses will be working full time, which explains how the hospitals can still function even when nearly 5,000 are on strike. Some of the union nurses use to work part-time only.
Services such as childbirth classes and tours at Abbott have been canceled in anticipation of a strike, but core services like emergency care will be maintained. Kanihan said the strike would have no impact on the vast majority of services, as informed by Twin Cities Pioneer Press on its website.
Nurses, who already went on strike for seven days in June after a deal could not be reached regarding health insurance, said the strike would not end until their demands are not met. Spokesman Rick Fuentes said Allina’s latest proposal on health insurance shifts too many costs for its nurses, as reported by CBS Minnesota.
They have asked for more annual safety training to improve the skills needed to de-escalate patients who are agitated and potentially violent, a guarantee of a security guard available 24 hours a day in emergency rooms. They have also requested a change in staffing so that charge nurses can maintain supervisory roles and replace nurses when they need breaks instead of having direct patient assignments.
“It would allow them to better manage the floor as well as being able to jump in and assist other nurses who need to go on a break or may have an emergency,” Fuentes said, as quoted by Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “All that does is improve the quality of care that those patients received.”
While nurse negotiators agreed at one point to phase out two insurance plans, Allina wanted that done before the year 2020. Angela Becchetti, an Abbott nurse who took part in the union bargaining committee, said it was not enough for Allina to know that nurses had offered to “eventually” end their two remaining healthcare plans, according to a report by Star Tribune.
Allina: “The union walked off from a great deal”
For its part, Allina claimed it made some significant compromises and that it offered wage increases and a ratification bonus. It also offered to extend the two most-used insurance plans and delay the cap on premium cost increases on nurse-only plans until the year 2019, as reported by CBS Minnesota.
Allina officials, who said the union was subjecting nurses and patients to a “completely unnecessary strike,” believe the health system can save $10 million each year if nurses are switched to a corporate plan.
“Our focus now needs to turn to continuing to provide high-quality care, with or without some of our permanent nurses. When the union is ready to move forward and accept a fair compromise, we will be there to meet with them,” Allina said, as quoted by CBS Minnesota.
Kanihan assured patients that they would receive top quality care even if the strike costs the hospital money, CBS informed. The last strike in June, which lasted for a week, cost Allina Health $20 million. Allina’s president also said there is no need for people to call in to check on their appointments because the company will reach out to them in case any changes are required.
Also, the Minnesota Department of Health will increase the frequency of unannounced on-site visits to ensure care quality.
Gov. Mark Dayton’s office said in a statement released Friday that he has tried to encourage that both sides come to a deal by talking to leaders, who have engaged in negotiations throughout seven months.
Allina’s nurses are not alone
The Association of EMTs and Paramedics Local R7.167 notified Allina that they plan to support the Minnesota Nurses Association by starting a strike on Sept. 15. The union’s president sent a letter to Allina saying that paramedics and EMTs will stand with nurses at the picket line, but it remains unclear how many of them will take part, according to CBS.
Source: CBS News