Nurses, lawmakers react to Mayo Clinic ‘blackmail’

Mayo Clinic sends warning to lawmakers

Mayo Clinic sends warning to lawmakers

The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) is accusing Mayo Clinic of blackmailing the Minnesota legislature after the hospital contacted state lawmakers on Friday.

Lawmakers say they got an email from Mayo Clinic officials that said if the language in the “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act” was not changed, then the hospital would stop investing more than $1 billion in projects across the state.

Based on emails reviewed by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, Mayo Clinic wants the Health Care Affordability Board removed and other changes to the “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act.” If the changes aren’t made, the emails mention Mayo considering taking an “enormous investment” set aside for future development projects to other states.

MNA members, Mayo Clinic nurses and legislators who authored the “Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act” spoke at a news conference Monday afternoon, blaming hospital leaders for putting profits ahead of staff members and patients.

Dr. Amy Williams, chair of Midwest Clinical Practice at Mayo Clinic, shared the following statement:

“At the heart of this 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. Like any responsible organization, we must evaluate the legislative and regulatory environment in the places we operate. Mayo has been working to address these concerns for months and is committed to transparently sharing the impacts of these policy decisions. We will continue working with leaders on a bill that is in the best interests of patients, the State and Mayo Clinic.”

“This bill is critically needed,” Chris Rubesch, a cardiac nurse and vice president of MNA, said Monday afternoon. “I pray when my spouse, my son, my parents or my neighbors or friends go to the hospital, they have the high-quality health care that all Minnesotans deserve.”

Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL-New Brighton), the author of the Minnesota House’s version of the bill, said she was surprised to hear the hospital’s concerns.

“We worked with them extensively, all of the sudden, we are very surprised to hear their demands, as you’ve heard at the 11th hour,” Feist said.

Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul), chief author of the Senate version of the bill, called Mayo Clinic’s message “incredibly frustrating” and added that it’s not the first time a “powerful and very well-resourced” corporation has threatened the state.

However, Murphy said she and other state lawmakers plan to stay the course rather than bend to the demand.

While speaking at a press conference Monday afternoon, Murphy had the following message for Mayo Clinic: “Stay. Stay and participate and lead.”

Sen. Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids), the lead Republican on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, released the following statement:

“When our signature institutions tell us they are worried about what one-party rule is going to do to their futures, we should listen to them. The 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 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.”

The governor told reporters on Friday that he hopes a compromise can be reached.

This also comes as nurses with Mayo Clinic Health Systems go through contract negotiations and call for better wages.

Mayo Clinic released another statement Monday afternoon, saying:

“We are disappointed with bill authors in the time being spent on a press conference when we could be using this time to make progress on a solution. Mayo remains committed to engaging with policymakers and other partners on legislation that will be in the best interests of patients, staff, the state and Mayo Clinic.

“Mayo Clinic has worked with policymakers for several months on proposed changes to the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act legislation that would provide a more comprehensive approach to address nursing shortages while ensuring Mayo Clinic can continue to fulfill its mission. We value input from our nurses – it is core to our staffing model. We agree our nursing staff face many challenges; however, we believe this bill does little to address the real challenge – recruitment and retention of the health care workers and staff Minnesotans need.”

The Minnesota Hospital Association released the following statement Monday:

“Minnesota’s nonprofit hospitals and health systems unanimously agree that there are serious concerns about the staffing bill as written. These concerns have been shared repeatedly over the past several months. While we have had some positive discussions with the House author of the bill, we believe that there are still very significant issues that need to be addressed. We remain committed to working collaboratively to find solutions – while maintaining our belief that any legislation impacting health care in Minnesota must prioritize our patients and access to care above all else. We continue to be concerned that this bill as it is currently written does not achieve this goal and will harm our ability to provide high-quality care to our patients. 

“One example of our many remaining concerns are the arbitration provisions in the bill – which would take decision making around staffing out of the hospital and into a legally binding process with external lawyers deciding what is best for patients. Taking patient care decisions out of the hands of professionals and into an unaccountable and unclear legal process is not in the best interest of Minnesotans. 

“We hope that these discussions will continue in a constructive manner. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that any legislation impacting health care in Minnesota always puts patients first.”

Click the video box below to watch Monday’s full press conference.

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