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Florida dumps surgical standards after failing hospital donates to GOP

26 Jan

By Mathew Keller RN JD, Regulatory and Policy Nursing Specialist


In a decision that has shocked pediatric surgeons across the state, Florida recently repealed a 38 year-old rule establishing state standards for pediatric cardiac surgery. The decision comes on the heels of a scathing investigative report by CNN, which found that St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach had an abysmal record in performing pediatric cardiac surgeries—including a death rate three times the national average.  St. Mary’s was also failing to meet the state’s quality standards, which include proficiency in performing the surgeries as well as a mechanism for outside physicians to conduct an expert panel review of such surgical programs. The rule also established standards and criteria for staffing, minimum physician and facility volumes, and data reporting for hospitals that perform pediatric cardiology surgery.

Florida doctors and medical experts were strongly against the repeal. Louis St. Petery, a pediatric cardiologist in Tallahassee and former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN that “The whole situation is outrageous. It’s just outrageous.” William Blanchard, a pediatric cardiologist and former medical director of the Nemours Children’s Clinic in Pensacola, stated at a hearing on the standards that getting rid of them is “both poor public policy and poor politics.” Jeffrey Jacobs, a professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins, further argued that the standards “are necessary to protect the vulnerable children with heart disease.”

For those who wonder why Florida repealed its standards despite the strong opposition of the medical community, look no further than the contributions of St. Mary’s parent company, Tenet Healthcare, to Florida governor Rick Scott and the legislative majority GOP party. In fact, Tenet has donated more than $200,000 to Governor Scott and the GOP over the last several years. David Nykanen, a pediatric cardiologist and member of the state’s Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel, pointed out to CNN that Scott has been in office since 2011 and his administration never objected to the standards until a Tenet hospital was found publicly not to meet them. “The coincidence is just a little too much,” said Nykanen, co-director of the Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. “It’s just a little hard to swallow.” In fact, the standards have been in place since 1977, and many physicians pointed out that they served as an example for other states such as Pennsylvania, which has similar standards for pediatric cardiac surgery.

So what does this mean for us Minnesotans? For one, it’s a warning. If you think something like this could never happen in Minnesota, you are wrong. Big corporate healthcare is alive and well in our state, and as corporations like Fairview, Allina, Mayo, Sanford, Essentia and others swallow up their competition, they become bigger and bigger players on the political scene, wielding outsized influence at the capital with their brand and their political contributions. We have seen big corporate healthcare advance its aims more and more through the legislative process, not necessarily in the interest of what’s good for Minnesotans, but rather what’s good for their bottom lines.

Community EMT, the nurse compact, telehealth, and so on.  It’s not Minnesotans advancing these issues, it’s big corporate healthcare. When Minnesotans hear that a bill is being pushed by Mayo, or any of the other large corporate healthcare players, we tend to automatically assume that it is good for us and in our best interest, but we need to dig deeper and uncover who big corporate healthcare is actually looking out for. We as citizens must remain vigilant, because what happened in Florida could happen to us.

Single Payer Healthcare Becoming Big Part of Debate

19 Jan

By Rick Fuentes

MNA Communications Specialist

Rick Fuentes- Minnesota Nurses Association

Rick Fuentes


It was no surprise to hear Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders declare his support for Single Payer healthcare during last weekend’s Presidential debate.  Sanders has long been a proponent of a system that creates “Medicare for All.”  That model would cover everyone in the country through a publicly-funded agency that paid for services to every provider in the country.  After all, Sanders’ home state of Vermont adopted a Single Payer system that covered almost everyone in 2011.  Green Mountain Care, as its called, was due to be fully implemented by 2017 (it’s since been put on hold indefinitely).


What’s surprising now is the state of Minnesota is finally studying the idea.  Last year Governor Mark Dayton appointed a 29-member Health Care Financing Task Force to study how to improve delivery and reduce costs of patient care – from prevention to treatment.  On Friday, January 15, the task force voted to adopt 30 measures to recommend to the Minnesota Legislature.  One of those is to study the costs and outcomes that would be generated by a Single Payer system and compare those with the current model.  You Can read about the task force’s findings here at the Minneapolis StarTribune or the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  If lawmakers adopt the study idea, it would be the state’s first look into how to dramatically affect the way healthcare is both paid for and delivered.



Rose Roach, MNA Executive Director and Minnesota Health Care Financing Task Force Member

“The issues raised within this task force have made it very clear that we must deal with financing the system before we can begin to deal with the care delivery issues,” said MNA Executive Director and Task Force Member Rose Roach. “We need to move to a place where people get the care they need when they need it, and we save money overall.”


Of course, lawmakers will have to enact the study and the other recommendations of the task force to start to move Minnesota toward better healthcare.  As the articles above state, that might be tough in a legislature where Democrats have the Senate but Republicans control the House.  As bedside witnesses to what works and what doesn’t work in healthcare, nurses have a collective and respected voice on how to improve it.  Lawmakers need to hear that unified voice.


“As nurses, we see patients who waited too long to get care, and now their conditions are more severe,” said Mary C. Turner, MNA President in a press release last week. “The health of the patient impacts the health of the community. When patients can get the care they need, it saves their families money. It saves businesses money, and it helps the state budget too,” Turner said.



Nurse Voices at the Capitol Help Patients

25 Feb

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul MinnesotaThe Minnesota legislative session starts today, Tuesday, February 25, and we have a lot of work to do to protect the practice of nursing, promote patient safety and advance the health of our community.

Minimum Wage Rally: Tuesday, February 25, 4:00 pm at the Capitol in St. Paul We will kick the session off with hundreds of allies at a rally in support of raising the Minimum Wage. Raising the wage to at least $9.50 and indexing it to inflation will raise thousands of families out of poverty and stimulate our economy. No one who works full time should live in poverty and have to choose between food for their family or gas for their car.  More information is available here. If you are unable to be at the Capitol on Tuesday, please use MNA Grassroots Action Center to send an email to your legislators to ask them to raise the minimum wage. RaiseWage_profilepic1


Nurses Day on the Hill: Monday, March 10 and Tuesday, March 11 in St. Paul

MNA’s biggest political event of the year is coming up soon too. Nurses Day on the Hill is our chance to meet our legislators, advocate for policies that affect our profession and our patients, and learn more about the issues that affect nurses at the Capitol. Monday night includes a dinner and education session, and Tuesday we will visit our legislators (MNA will make appointments for you). More information is here. Please RSVP soon!


Session Preview

This session, we will be working on a number of important issues, and we will keep you in the loop each Friday with a brief email update about the week at the Capitol. Please watch your email on Fridays – there will be times when we will alert you to action opportunities, bill progress and chances for you to reach out to your legislators. Geri Katz Political Organizer Minnesota Nurses Association 651-414-2855

Click the link below to log in and send your message:

Nurses React to 2013 Adverse Event Report

24 Jan

2013-Adverse-EventNurses of the Minnesota Nurses Association are pleased to see reductions in adverse events as reported in the 2013 Adverse Event Report by the Minnesota Department of Health but caution patients that the annual report of preventable errors in hospitals doesn’t tell the whole story of patient safety. They say no patient should suffer a fatal fall if they receive the proper nursing care.  Read More of MNA’s Statement

Read the full report


Video: Thief River Falls petition to Sanford HR

18 Oct
Thief River Falls nurses and families prepare to deliver petition to Sanford HR

Thief River Falls nurses and families prepare to deliver petition to Sanford HR

On Thursday, October 17, MNA nurses are taking their concerns directly to management at Sanford hospitals.  At Bagley, nurses are concerned they’re being asked to cover more patient assignments for each nurse and doctor.  At Thief River Falls, nurses are concerned their own health insurance benefits are being cut.  In Bemidji, nurses are concerned that untrained staff are monitoring patients on telemetry.

HMOs’ piggy banks get bigger

16 Jul HMOs surpluses

Minnesota’s HMOs continue to bank huge surpluses.  According to health care analyst Allan Baumgarten’s report, which was cited here by the Twin Cities Business Journal, health plans in the state collectively socked away $241 million in 2012.  That’s up from 2011 profits of $230 million.

HMOs surpluses

HMOs living high on the hog with huge surpluses

HMOs will disagree with the word profits, as they’re non-profits, but their revenues combined mean they’re now sitting on $1.9 billion in savings.  State law require them to save money to remain solvent, but the latest figures show the state’s health plans are now banking $1.3 billion more than regulations require.

HealthPartners alone generated nearly $128 million in operating income over the past two years, which earns it the title of most profitable HMO in the state.  That means employers and their employees are grossly overpaying HMOs for medical coverage.   A bill, however, that would require HMOs to only maintain a net worth limited to just 25 percent of their expenses never saw the light of day in the legislature last year.

The TCBiz Journal reports the HMOs have also applied to sell coverage on the MNSure Exchange next fall, and Baumgarten expects these insurers will be offering limited range of provider coverage on the network to keep costs down and profits up.

MNA NewsScan, July 10, 2013: Hospital scam puts patients at risk; ACA intensifies debate on patient safety standards

10 Jul


How the American Health Care System Killed My Father    Nor is he dead because of indifferent nursing—without exception, his nurses were dedicated and compassionate.

Hospital Exposes Patients to Needless Radiation For The Money   Cardiologists and the Infirmary Health System in Mobile, Ala., are accused of needlessly exposing patients to radiation in a nine-year-running kickback scheme tainting an estimated $522 million in Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare reimbursements since 2004.

2013 a Banner Year for Minnesota Children’s Mental Health    In-reach services were added so that care could be provided when a child leaves the hospital or emergency room to help reduce readmissions and ensure a smooth transition.

Reorganization Underway at North Memorial   “The employer, North Memorial has told nurses that some are being laid off due to unit closure and merger.”

How Oregon is Getting “Frequent Flyers” Out of the ER   Oregon’s health care experiment allows Pearlstein to help Seals and other Medicaid patients much like a family member might. She helped him schedule doctor appointments, and went with him to make sure he understood what he had to do. She also helped him get dialysis and take his medications correctly.


ACA Intensifies Hospital RN Staffing Debate     The Affordable Care Act, which is expected to boost hospital admissions, has intensified a decades-old battle over the number of nurses who should be available to patients at all times.

Shift Workers Face Higher Miscarriage Risk; Subfertility    Women who work irregular shifts suffer more disrupted menstrual cycles, miscarriages and reduced fertility, according to an analysis of data from previous studies presented at a scientific meeting in London.


State Workers to Vote on New Contracts   The proposals include 3 percent raises for each of the next two years and would require state employees to pay more for their health insurance.

MNA NewsScan, July 8, 2013: Hospital error rate “appalling;” Is 68 the new 65?

8 Jul


How Consistent Hospital Error is Having a Deadly Effect on the Health Care System    “Medical harm is probably one of the three leading causes of death in the U.S., but the government doesn’t adequately track it as it does deaths from automobiles, plane crashes, and cancer. It’s appalling,” he told the magazine.

The 9 Things You MUST Check Before Choosing a Hospital    7. Check the Nurse-to-Patient Ratio – Ideally, a nurse should have only four to six patients under his or her care at a time (and less if it’s critical or intensive care).

N.Y. Hospital Nearly Harvested Organs from Living Woman   Records the newspaper obtained under state freedom of information laws document a series of missteps, including doctors ignoring nurses’ observations that Burns was responding to stimuli and trying to breathe on her own. The surgery was called off when she opened her eyes in the operating room.


U.K. Nurses To Be Asked to Work Until Age 68    More than 200,000 nurses are set to retire in the next few years but Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt hopes many will keep working.


The Roberts Court on Labor Rights.  Be Afraid.  Be Very Afraid  Carmon reports that while appeals court judges reverse employer wins at a rate of 9 percent, they reverse employee wins by a whopping 41 percent.

MNA NewsScan, July 3, 2013: Nurses, staffing, special skills combine to improve care for cancer patients

3 Jul


More Cancer Specialist Nurses Improve Hospital Care   Patients of better staffed trusts were more likely to report that people treating and caring for them worked well together and they received enough emotional support during outpatient treatment.


Obamacare Postpones Employer Mandate for a Year    Employers who don’t provide health insurance will be spared penalties of up to $3,000 per worker until 2015, a one-year delay of a major component of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

Kickstart Your Medical Bills   The Kennett family of Alexandria is one of thousands turning to the Internet to raise money for medical bills. The sites that host these campaigns operate much like online business fundraising sites such as Kickstarter.

American Way of Birth Is Costliest in the World   The couple had to approach the nine months that led to the birth of their daughter in May like an extended shopping trip though the American health care bazaar, sorting through an array of maternity services that most often have no clear price and — with no insurer to haggle on their behalf — trying to negotiate discounts from hospitals and doctors.

Why Our Health Care Lets Prices Run Wild   So why is our health care spending more than 17% of our gross domestic product, far more than any other country?


NLRB Uncertainty Benefits Big Corporate Donors   Republican senators who support a lawsuit that could shut down the National Labor Relations Board have received more than $6 million over the years from corporations that have already benefited from the lawsuit, according to a new analysis of campaign finance data.

Hyatt Workers Win Deal After Full-Court Press    Over the last three years, hotel workers employed nearly every tactic of a modern corporate campaign against Hyatt.

Rise of the Blue-Collar “Permatemp”   A recent ProPublica analysis found that at least 840,000 temp workers across the U.S. work blue-collar jobs earning them less than $25,000 a year. These aren’t day laborers, but regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chains of some of America’s largest companies, such as Walmart and Nike.

MNA NewsScan, July 1, 2013: Nuns as nurses in Civil War; How bogus are patient satisfaction scores

1 Jul


sisters-of-mercy-painting_420Union Army’s Top Nurses Were Nuns   This insight honors the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.    The Daughters of Charity at their provincial house in Emmitsburg, Md., could hear the cannons of Pickett’s Charge 10 miles off. They helped their chaplain pack a wagon with medical supplies and, when the cannons were silenced, a dozen sisters rode with him to tend to the wounded.


Hospitals Reward CEOs for Profit Over Quality    Across the nation, boards at nonprofit hospitals such as Valley are often paying bosses much more for boosting volume rather than delivering value, according to interviews with compensation consultants and an examination of CEOs’ employment contracts and bonus packages.

Health Reform Brings Heavy Fines for Hospitals with High Readmissions  If you look at the difference between the hospitals with the highest and lowest readmission rates, you can conclude that around 20 percent of readmissions should be avoidable.

A Doctor Guilty of Fraud Has Great Patient Satisfaction Scores   They found that patient satisfaction did not correlate at all with the rates of hospital compliance with SCIP process measures nor the opinions of employees about the culture of the institution for half the categories questioned.


“Perfect Storm” of Fire Kills 19 Firefighters in AZ    Nineteen elite firefighters were killed in a raging Arizona wildfire stoked by record heat and high winds, marking the greatest loss of life among firefighters from a single U.S. wildland blaze in 80 years.

Fly the Flag and the Union Label This July 4th   Beyond our outdoor feast supplies, there are some other July 4th necessities that carry a union label.