Nurses voice concerns over hospitals shutting down or downsizing during pandemic

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Minnesota nurses are raising concerns as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state. The Minnesota Nurses Association says hundreds of job losses are only deepening the crisis in the Twin Cities where intensive care units are near capacity.

Metro area nurses gathered in St. Paul on Friday.

Parivash Jamshidi an ICU nurse at St Joseph’s hospital said, "Yeah my job is important, but, we are here to help the people, and without us, during a pandemic when these cases are increasing and they’re taking us out, it’s not just about me, it’s about the population that we serve, and without us, what are we going to do, what’s everyone going to do?!"

Gov. Tim Walz, on the Minnesota Department of Health call on Friday, described the nurses as heroes, "These nurses are under immense strain on numerous fronts, they see hospital closings and movements happening in the midst of this and it is both scary and terrifying for them in terms of taking care of their patients, it’s both disconcerting to them for their own professional growth."

Hundreds of nurses’ jobs will be affected by the closure of MHealth Fairview’s Bethesda and St. Joseph’s hospitals, as well as staffing changes at Children’s St. Paul Hospital, according to the Minnesota Nurses Association.

Kelly Wiler, a nurse who works in the COVID unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital, said, "My COVID unit is full and it’s been full for weeks…How can you close a hospital during a pandemic?"

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Mable Fale, a nurse who’s on MNA’s Racial and Diversity Committee, said of the situation, "This health care situation is very dire, so it begs the question, why are these closures and changes continuing to happen?"

In a statement, MHealth Fairview explained, in part: "Like many other health systems across the country, our system faces long-term financial challenges. Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while necessary for the health of our communities, only increased those challenges."

MHealth also said, "We eliminated approximately 225 MNA nursing positions across the Fairview system, but we have more than 500 nursing positions available."

But the Minnesota Nurses Association said this isn’t sufficient.

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Mary Turner, President of Minnesota Nurses Association, who’s also a COVID ICU nurse on night shift at North Memorial in Robbinsdale, said, "We don’t know what they are. And it’s not going to solve the problem of these hospital beds going away."

Turner is urging people to wear masks when they leave their homes so they don’t spread the virus to anyone, including health care workers.