Fifteen thousand members of the Minnesota Nurses Association at 16 Twin Cities area hospitals already had a three-day strike in September that was called the biggest private-sector nursing strike in history by their union.
Negotiations have been going on for months, with issues of pay, staff shortages and quality of care central to the discussion.
Hospital systems across the country are already under pressure with outbreaks of RSV, COVID-19 and the flu flooding them with patients. In the event of a nurse strike, hospitals would need to rely on traveling nurses to keep things running.
The entire country has faced a nursing shortage since the pandemic. The U.S. would need 200,000 new nurses per year through 2030 to meet demand, but nursing schools are turning away students for lack of faculty to teach them.
Staffing shortages lead to burnout and the problem is only getting worse as nurses leave the field while the aging population of the U.S. leads to more people in need of care.
In Minnesota, nursing vacancies have doubled since 2019, and unsafe staffing issues are a key component of the strike.
The Minnesota Nurses Association called out hospital systems for giving executives large salaries while failing to address staffing concerns raised by bedside nurses.
One of those nurses, Kelley Anaas, rejected the hospital system’s claim that the nurses are being “opportunistic.”
“Opportunistic is how these health care systems run their businesses,” Anaas said Thursday on “CUOMO.” “They took advantages of nurses’ goodwill, our dedication of our profession and our patients during the COVID crisis, and they have never looked back.”
The decision to strike is not made lightly, registered nurse and mental health advocate Sarah Warren said Friday on “Morning in America.”
“Nurses have been striking for the same issues for decades. These hospital systems and these care settings just have not changed enough in order to meet the demands of patients, as well as the needs for nurses to be able to provide safe, high-quality care for their patients,” Warren said. “When a nurse strikes, it is not only for the benefit of themselves, it’s also for the benefit of patients, their safety and maintaining their dignity.”
In a statement, Allina Health said it was “disappointed” by the nurses’ decision to strike while the flu, RSV and COVID-19 circulate, adding that the vote to strike happened “before (nurses) have exhausted all available options” to reach a deal.
“While we are hopeful a deal can be reached, we want to assure the public that we have plans in place to continue caring for our community with as few disruptions to care as possible.”
The hospital said negotiations will resume Friday.
Anaas called the current working conditions “untenable” because of staffing shortages.
“Nurses are leaving for jobs that have better hours, taking less pay so that they can have a better work-life balance … and hospitals just aren’t replacing them as quickly so that they can save money … on labor,” Anaas said.