MNA Legislative Update, April 19, 2013

19 Apr

Standards of Care Campaign Update
House File 588 (HF588) passed the full Minnesota House of Representatives 73-58 on Wednesday. There was bipartisan support for our bill to require the Department of Health to study the correlation between staffing and patient outcomes and hospitals to report their staffing quarterly to the public. Take a moment to thank our author and champion Representative Joe Atkins. He has gone to the mat for nurses over and over again because he believes us when we say patients are vulnerable in Minnesota’s hospitals today. His email is rep.joe.atkins@house.mn.   The bill still has to clear one more committee in the Senate. We expect that hearing to take place next week.   We need to reach out to members of the Senate who are still undecided on the bill. Even if you have already contacted your state senator, please reach out again. If you haven’t already, tell your senator why we need to address staffing in Minnesota hospitals, and ask for their support.

Contact your state senator today and ask them to support strong consumer transparency language, nurse staffing reporting and a comprehensive study that gathers real, Minnesota-specific data about the correlation between staffing and health outcomes.    Click here to use the MNA Grassroots Action Center to send an email.    Let your senator know:

  • You’re a nurse
  • Why it is important to shine a light on the correlation between staffing and health outcomes
  • Why better nurse staffing matters to you and your patients

Mayo “Destination Medical Center”
This week the Mayo Clinic returned to the legislature with a revised proposal regarding the state’s contribution to the Destination Medical Center expansion project in Rochester. The new plan in the House requires Rochester and Olmstead County to contribute more to the project, and reduces the state contribution from $585 million to under $400 million.   Last week MNA, along with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers union, submitted a letter to legislators raising questions about the project, including seeking more information about what kind of jobs would be created by the expansion, how the project would affect quality of care and Mayo’s obligation to provide charity care. After the release of the new plan, we still haven’t received answers to our questions and will continue to seek information before supporting such a major public investment in a private institution.

Out-of-state purchase of University of Minnesota Hospital
While the Sanford/Fairview merger talks are off, due to the public inquiry into the matter by Attorney General Lori Swanson, the trend of hospital consolidation and corporatization continues. Representative Joe Atkins (DFL- Inver Grove Heights) held a hearing this week on his bill to prohibit the sale of the University of Minnesota hospital to an out-of-state entity. Minnesotans have invested in the University of Minnesota hospital and medical school, and taxpayers deserve to know their investment will continue to serve the interests of Minnesotans, and not be transferred to a for-profit corporation that put profits ahead of patient care and medical education.   The bill passed the House Commerce Committee this week and will move on to the Health and Human Services Policy committee.

State Contract
The contract for over 700 MNA nurses in state facilities was passed by the House on Monday with bipartisan support. Thanks are due to Representative Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul) for all his work on passing the bill in the House.   In the Senate, the contract still has to be passed by the Finance Committee before it goes for a floor vote. In an unprecedented move last session, the same contract, agreed to by both management and employees, was voted down by the Republican-controlled legislature after attacks on public employees all session long. State nurses have gone without a contract for two years, and while this contract will most likely be finalized by the legislature, they will have to start negotiating their next contract immediately, as this one will expire at the end of 2013.

Under the new contract, nurses will receive a 2% wage increase that will be in effect from January – June, 2013.   In addition, the contract calls for tuition reimbursement, bonus pay for extra weekend shifts and charge nurse pay.

Health and Human Services Omnibus Bills
The Governor, Senate and House have all released their Health and Human Services proposals. There are significant differences between the three plans, but we are pleased to see that each plan includes language to keep the state mental health facility in Willmar open. Both the House and Senate plans seek more accountability from Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). The House and Senate each propose increase funding for nursing homes, including a Cost of Living Adjustment for nursing home workers, whose wages have been frozen for years.   The bills are working their way through the legislative process and will go to a conference committee in coming weeks to work out differences.

Federal Update MNA nurses are in Washington, DC today with hundreds of NNU nurses from around the country to lobby for the Robin Hood Tax (HR 1579), a federal nurse-to-patient ratio law (S. 739), and collective bargaining rights for Veterans Administration nurses. They are also rallying in Washington, DC to urge the city council to make local hospitals safer by passing the Patient Protection Act.

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