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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In a decision that has shocked pediatric surgeons across the state, Florida recently repealed a 38 year-old rule establishing state standards for pediatric cardiac surgery.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For those who wonder why Florida repealed its standards despite the strong opposition of the medical community, look no further than the contributions of St. Mary’s parent company, Tenet Healthcare, to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.

Nurse-Endorsed Candidate Jim Abeler Wins Republican Primary

13 Jan
Minnesota Senate candidate Jim Abeler

Minnesota Senate candidate Jim Abeler

MNA-endorsed candidate Jim Abeler won an important Republican primary for the special state senate election in Senate District 35 yesterday. Abeler now moves on to the special general election on February 9, to replace Senator Branden Petersen, who resigned his seat.

Issues that directly affect our profession – like attempts to allow others to do registered nursing work – are decided in the political arena. To ensure that our voices are heard in those deliberations, MNA endorses candidates who stand with us on the issues. MNA is proud to support Jim Abeler.
Jim is a chiropractor and former Republican State Representative from Anoka. MNA nurses endorsed Jim several times for State Representative, and we have worked well with him on nursing, health care and labor issues. We know we can count on Jim Abeler to stand with us on issues of nursing practice and patient safety.

Abeler takes time to talk to nurses at North

Then Representative Jim Abeler with MNA nurses at the 2014 informational picket at North Memorial Medical Center.

MNA nurses conducted phone banks to nurses in SD35 and are pleased that we played a small part in Abeler’s win.

For nurses who live in SD 35 (Anoka, Ramsey and parts of Coon Rapids), please get out to vote for Jim Abeler in the general election on February 9. Polls will be open from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm. To look up your polling place visit

Minnesota Nurses Head to Iowa to Doorknock for Bernie

5 Jan


FullSizeRender[3] It was a lovely day in Iowa this past Saturday. I along with Pat Webster were door knocking for Bernie Sanders. IMG_0450 copy

We came up to this house and the folks there insisted that we come in and sit a spell. The house was very modest surroundings but these folks were so thrilled to be talking to us nurses, it was heart warming!

I couldn’t help thinking that Bernie Sanders is the kind of President that is needed to help those who don’t ask or expect anything from the government but who need it the most. Barb Martin and Jean Ross were out on another route.

We all had a very rewarding day, and despite having to climb my share of icy stairs after recent knee surgery I will be going again the end of January. When I will once again meet more delightful Bernie supporters. IMG_0451 copy

Hope you can join me,

Mary C Turner

President of Minnesota Nurses Association


1 May

Legislative Update May 1, 2015

House HHS Omnibus Bill
Tuesday night, the House passed its Health and Human Services omnibus bill (HF 1638). The bill includes many of MNA’s issues in various forms:

MinnesotaCare is dropped all together. This is the insurance program for about 90,000 Minnesotans who make too much money for Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance through an exchange (approximately 134-200% of the Federal Poverty Level or about $40,000 for a family of four). Another bill, HF 848, includes tax credits for those dropped from MinnesotaCare to get coverage through the private market or MNsure.  Unfortunately, the proposed credits aren’t nearly enough to provide an equal level of care.  As a result, MinnesotaCare recipients could face high deductibles and co-pays, which could cause them to forego even routine care or just go broke trying to pay for care when they really need it.

CEMT is in the House version, which contains some but not all the language MNA fought for that would prevent Community Emergency Medical Technicians from practicing nursing skills. This bill allows CEMTs to check on and help newly discharged patients.  Because there is a provision in the bill that requires a workgroup to make recommendations to the Legislature on what services will be eligible for reimbursement, MNA will continue to advocate in that workgroup that these services not infringe on the nursing scope of practice.

Temporary license suspension is also in the House HHS Omnibus bill.  This language raises the level of threat a nurse or healthcare worker must pose to patients before that license holder can be suspended without a hearing.

Senate HHS Omnibus bill
Last week, the Senate passed its all-encompassing HHS bill, which includes these MNA issues:

Workplace Violence Prevention Bill
The bill, which would require all Minnesota hospitals to have a workplace violence prevention plan and provide training to workers on an annual basis. Despite a push from nurses and legislators, the data on incidents will only be accessible to collective bargaining representatives and law enforcement.

Healthcare Task Force
This bill echoes the Governor’s proposal to create a task force that will look at other ways to pay for healthcare in Minnesota. This analysis will look at many options.  We hope it will include a study on the savings that could be brought by a Single Payer system. MNA will work to ensure this proposal is in the final budget and to see that nurses are well represented on the task force.

The program continues to operate in this version of the bill, but will face intense pressure and scrutiny as the conference committee decides its fate

Biennial Budget
Two and a half weeks to go in this Legislative Session, and the time to create a budget is growing short. The GOP-led House passed its tax bill Wednesday with a vote along straight party lines. The GOP budget cuts taxes for big business, including eliminating the corporate property tax all together. Those cuts are being marketed as a middle tax class cut, even though a single, $75,000 a year filer would only get $70 back.

To pay for this, the GOP budget underfunds education, and Greater Minnesota doesn’t get broadband, schools, or train safety. In addition, various services offered through HHS would be cut by $1.1 billion.  At a time when we have a $2 billion surplus that could help to move Minnesota forward, their proposed shifts and gimmicks could return us to the deficit days that forced Minnesota to borrow from schools again and again. Stay tuned on the response from the DFL-led Senate and the Governor’s office. It appears this budget won’t be settled until the final hours on May 17.

MNA nurses joined TakeAction Minnesota and many other groups to oppose the elimination of MinnesotaCare in the House HHS budget at a press conference on Tuesday. MNA Executive Director Rose Roach explained the impact of the cuts on Minnesota’s patients.

See clips from the conference hereScreen Shot 2015-04-30 at 12.24.42 PM

Rape Kit Inventory
Law enforcement agencies are sitting on hundreds of untested rape kits that could be used to bring suspects to justice. The bill that would look into the status of untested rape kits passed the Senate floor by a unanimous vote.  The bill also passed the House on Tuesday with the same language in the Public Safety Committee’s omnibus bill. There are concerns that some gun-related issues are riding on the omnibus bill, which could tie up this bill as well. The Governor will have trouble signing it with those riders. If that happens, there will be a push to hear the Rape Kit Inventory as a stand-alone bill.

Voter Pre-Registration
The bill that would allow 16-year-old to register to vote before they turn 18 has made it into the Senate Elections omnibus bill but not the House version.

Sen Hoffman
Wednesdays at the Capitol

This week, nurses from Children’s Hospitals in St. Paul and Minneapolis teamed up to talk to legislators, and they got a great response from their state representatives and senators. Every Wednesday, we bring small groups of nurses to the Capitol to meet with legislators about our priority bills. All MNA members are welcome.

Nurses in attendance will meet at the MNA office in the morning for a briefing and quick training on how to talk to legislators.  They then carpool to the Capitol to talk to elected officials about the need for Safe Patient Standard and Workplace Violence Prevention legislation. At around 1 p.m., the group returns to the MNA office for lunch and a debrief of the day.  Please contact Geri Katz or Eileen Gavin for more information or to sign up.

Legislative Update April 24, 2015

24 Apr
Legislative Update April 24, 2015


Biennenial Budget

With less than a month to go in the 2015 Legislative Session, there’s little consensus on the next state budget, and healthcare is the biggest argument. Even though the state has a $1.9 billion surplus, the GOP’s proposed budget provides for $2 billion in tax cuts and cuts $1 billion from Health and Human Services.  House Republicans want to slash healthcare so they can give cuts to big business, including eliminating the corporate property tax altogether.

Rep. Matt Dean’s (R-Dellwood) proposal is to drop MinnesotaCare entirely.  MinnesotaCare is the insurance program for about 90,000 Minnesotans who make too much money for Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance through an exchange.  They make 134-200% of the Federal Poverty Level or about $40,000 for a family of four.  While some insist that MinnesotaCare recipients would be compensated by the state for enrolling in a MNsure plan, it’s not that simple.  A comparable MNsure plan would cost more and have as high as a $6,000 deductible.

What will surely happen is families won’t be able to pay for better care, will delay needed care, or go broke when they do have to see a healthcare provider.  As a result, nurses will continue to see patients who are sicker, who should’ve come for care sooner, and who can’t afford things they need to get better, including medications.

MNA nurses are joining Take Action Minnesota and many other groups to oppose the cuts.  It’s anticipated that the HHS Finance bill will be on the House Floor on Wednesday or Thursday of next week.  The coalition of groups opposing these cuts is working to turn out people for the hearing.  Stay tuned for specifics of where and when.  In the meantime, can you send an email to your legislators TODAY, asking them to save MinnesotaCare? 

Workplace Violence Prevention Bill

The workplace violence prevention bill championed by Minnesota nurses has had another victory in the Minnesota Senate.  The bill, which would require all Minnesota hospitals to have a workplace violence prevention plan and provide training to workers on an annual basis, was included in the HHS Finance Omnibus bill last Friday night.  Despite a push from nurses and legislators to include a provision requiring hospitals to report data on violent incidents to the Department of Health and make it accessible to the public, hospitals pushed back, saying that they did not want the public to have access to data on the number of violent incidents that occur at their facilities.  Instead, the data will only be accessible to collective bargaining representatives and law enforcement.  Unfortunately for nurses, this means that the Department of Health will not be able to play a role in monitoring and analyzing incidents of workplace violence or working with hospitals to improve gaps they may have in their violence prevention plans.

The HHS bill moved on to the full Finance Committee on Wednesday night, where it also passed and will be heard on the Senate floor today. While the bill has found success in the Senate, the House did not even hold a hearing on the bill or include it in their omnibus bill.  Because of that, pressure is still needed to ask House members to agree to include the language in the final HHS Omnibus bill that will come out of conference committee.


The bill to establish a Community Emergency Medical Technician was also included in the Senate Health and Human Services Omnibus bill.  MNA nurses and other stakeholders still have concerns that the bill could allow CEMTs to practice nursing in a non-emergent setting.   Because there is a provision in the bill that requires a workgroup to make recommendations to the Legislature on what services will be eligible for reimbursement, MNA will continue to advocate within the workgroup that these services not infringe on the nursing scope of practice.

The House has also included the CEMT bill in its HHS omnibus finance bill.  Slight differences in the language means that MNA will also continue to advocate for the Senate position, which removes the ability for CEMTs to do Care Coordination and diagnosis-specific patient education.

It is expected that the bill will pass in some form in the final HHS Omnibus budget bill and the workgroup will begin to meet this summer.

Wednesdays at the Capitol

Every Wednesday, we bring small groups of nurses to the Capitol to meet with legislators about our priority bills. Our next visit is April 29 for Children’s St. Paul and Minneapolis. All MNA members are welcome.  Your bargaining unit can claim your own Day on the Hill too.

We’ll meet at the MNA office in the morning for a briefing and quick training on how to talk to legislators.  We will carpool to the Capitol to talk to elected officials about the need for Safe Patient Standard and Workplace Violence Prevention legislation. We’ll return to the office around 1 p.m. and have lunch. Please contact Geri Katz or Eileen Gavin for more information or to sign up.

TPP: Not a good trade

20 Mar
Rose Roach

MNA Executive Director Rose Roach

By Rose Roach, MNA Executive Director


Recently, we’ve seen some lawmakers talking the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including President Obama and 6th District US Rep. Tom Emmer. The Delano Republican’s endorsement is interesting, considering he’s never seen the whole of the TPP agreement. No member of Congress has. Only the 600 corporate negotiators know what’s really in it, which doesn’t inspire much confidence. US Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5th) is one of the several members of Congress who have requested it but still hasn’t gotten it. All we can go on is what actual trade experts think will transpire if TPP becomes law. The consequences of the TPP are frightening, especially for anyone who routinely uses prescription drugs or depends on a living wage.


For starters, the TPP would establish an agreement for tariffs and trade provisions in 12 nations, including the US, Australia, and Japan. Some provisions would be equal, others wouldn’t. One that appears to be unilateral has been pushed by pharmaceutical companies. They hope to be able to hold on to “data exclusivity” for 12 years. That means any research on new drugs is proprietary, and it will delay the release of generic drugs from any of these nations until well past the point when a patient needs them. The cost of drugs will go up, even for veterans, who are charged less than market rate.   ICU nurses see patients regularly who have to be placed on a ventilator due to heart failure simply because they couldn’t afford their life sustaining medication, medication that in many cases, costs the pharmaceutical company pennies on the dollar to actually make but because they are beholden to their shareholders, they mark-up the costs to ensure a hefty profit denying patients the ability to purchase the medication they desperately need. This “trade” agreement further entrenches these practices and puts public health at risk. Public health is not something that should be up for trade.


Because corporate regulations would be the same across TPP nations, corporations would be free to sue governments with rules or requirements that impact their business. This already exists under the North American Free Trade Agreement, but it would be greatly expanded under the TPP. It’s not crazy, and it’s already happened with countries being ordered to use taxpayer dollars to make up lost profit a corporation experiences due to laws that protect consumers. All the regulations the US has pioneered to protect its citizens, from food safety to environmental protections, could be challenged and overruled.

With such a low bar, policies that encourage the hiring of US companies and their US workers would be gone too. US federal contracts could go to any nation. “Buy local” incentives would be history, meaning companies would be encouraged to offshore even more services such as IT support, customer service, even HR and accounting. President Obama touts TPP as a “progressive” deal because it would require all nations to stick to their respective minimum wage laws. That’s pretty meaningless when each country has a different minimum wage, and some don’t have one at all.


By far, the most maddening aspect of TPP is its secrecy. The fast track approval process means our elected representatives in Congress won’t see it until it’s done, and it’s not up for debate. They’ll either have to vote it up or down. This flies against the very words in the US Constitution (Article I, Section 8) that guarantee our local representatives in Congress the authority to determine the terms of trade policy. If TPP is such a terrific trade deal, the public, through its elected representatives, should be allowed to have a full and open debate to ensure this agreement really is in the best interest of the American people.


Summing up, we give away our rights to decide our future, our good jobs, our living wages, our consumer and environmental protections, and our ability to buy cheaper product including drugs that could save our lives. In exchange, we get next to nothing. That doesn’t sound like a very good trade at all.


Video: MNA Nurses Deliver Valentines to MN Dept of Health

25 Feb

100 nurses delivered more than 2,000 Concern for Safe Staffing Forms to Commissioner of Health Ed Ehlinger. They lined up to tell their stories of unsafe staffing situations and the effects it has on patients.



Video: 2015 MNA Nurses Day on the Hill

18 Feb

150 MNA member nurses came to the Capitol in St. Paul to tell lawmakers they want a Safe Patient Standard and that nurses and patients are not safe in the workplace.


Video: MNA Nurses Support Effort to End Workplace Violence

12 Feb

Nurses from St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood describe horrific night when a patient suddenly attacked them. MNA nurses are fighting for workplace safety for all healthcare workers in all facilities.


Video: Help Nurses Elect Candidates Who Help Nurses

16 Sep



Join other dedicated members of the Minnesota Nurses Association who are supporting MNA endorsed candidates.  Go to
OR call Eileen Gavin at 651-414-2871.