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Signs of Support for IFalls Nurses Line the Streets

16 Apr Paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters supports MNA nurses!

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Imagine everyone in your town wanting to let you know you are awesome. MNA nurses in International Falls don’t have to dream.

Eight months into negotiating a contract with management at Rainy Lake Medical Center (RLMC), the 27-member bargaining unit is literally seeing signs of support throughout this picturesque city that shares a border with Canada.

Over 100 signs, sporting the message “We Support Our Nurses” are being posted in shop windows; hoisted high by firefighters, paramedics and EMTs; cradled by senior apartment residents; and displayed on bulletin boards throughout the city’s commercial districts. It’s a message warmly given from the town often referred to as “America’s Icebox.”  In addition, members of several other unions in the area have signed petitions of solidarity for the nurses.

RLMC management has yet to receive the message.  Contract talks on Tuesday ended after the union and hospital could not come to agreement settling outstanding proposals in negotiations.

A key issue is hospital management’s attempt to force a “management rights” clause into the next three-year contract.  Nurses fear the provision could lead to administrative personnel perceiving they have power to make arbitrary decisions that impact nursing practice and patient safety.

A petition, signed by 100 percent of the nurses and delivered to management in February characterized, the tactic as a “serious overreach of authority.”

“When it comes to the care we are able to give and how we can advocate for our patients, this proposal ties our hands,” said MNA negotiating team member Diane Olek.  She is especially concerned about the fast-changing dynamics of health care.“  This is a contract we will have to live with and health care is changing so quickly,” said Olek.  She worries that non-providers believing they can arbitrarily make unilateral decisions about nurse staffing without negotiating them will compromise the safety of patients in the hospital. “Why lock ourselves into this?”

Lisa Hay, an active union member, considers it an unacceptable concession of rights and professional nursing judgment. At a recent all-RN meeting, Hay warned her colleagues “When I looked at the management rights clause I said ‘what you take away from us, you take away from patients’.”

Those values run through the whole nurse group.  “I feel 100 percent support at the table,” said MNA Co-Chair Wendy Sutch.  “All of our nurses feel very strongly they want to have a voice in patient care.” She describes her colleagues as a tight-knit group and especially sees a deep river of resolve in the younger nurses.  “They’re aware of what their future could be based on this contract. Everyone’s on board.”

That solidarity and community support will be on full display for RLMC management to view on Tues., May 6 when MNA nurses intend to conduct an informational picket in front of the hospital from noon – 2:00 p.m.

MNA Legislative Update April 5, 2014

5 Apr Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

MNA Legislative Update April 5, 2014Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minimum Wage

Legislative leaders are still in discussions about raising the minimum wage (HF92). Both the House and Senate agree on raising the wage to $9.50, but only the House currently supports including an annual inflationary increase in the legislation, called indexing, that allows minimum wage workers to keep up with the rising costs of food, housing, and transportation. Last week the Senate introduced a bill that would have asked the voters to decide on the minimum wage and inflationary increases, but this week the author, Sen. Ann Rest, withdrew the bill. MNA supports an increased minimum wage with an automatic inflationary increase so low wage workers can catch up and keep up.

Please use the MNA Grassroots Action Center to contact your Senator and ask him or her to support an increased and indexed minimum wage.

Synthetic Drugs

Rep. Erik Simonson’s bill to outlaw synthetic drugs (HF2446) has passed through many committees already and passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday and will move on to a floor vote. Senate companion (SF2028) is waiting for a hearing in Finance Committee, which is probably the last committee stop before a floor vote. MNA supports this bill as an important step in reducing the impact of synthetic drugs on our communities.

Public Employee Relations Board

A bill to establish a Public Employee Relations Board (HF3014)is moving as legislators on the House Ways and Means Committee passed it on Tuesday. The Senate Finance Committee will hear it next week. The House Ways and Means Committee amended the bill to include employees of charitable hospitals, including many MNA nurses. This legislation creates a board where public employees could bring unfair labor practice complaints, rather than bringing them to district court, which would mirror the private sector process. Since the district court process is cumbersome and expensive, this new board would save employers and employees significant amounts of money.

Women’s Economic Security Act

Legislation to address discrimination and economic inequality that women face (HF2536) was passed by the House Ways and Means committee on Wednesday and is on the way to the House for a floor vote. In the Senate, we are still waiting for a floor vote to be scheduled. MNA supports this legislation because women make up half the state’s workforce and providing them with equal opportunities and pay is critical to our state’s economic future.  Anti-Bullying Bill

The full Minnesota Senate voted on the Safe and Supportive Schools bill (HF826) on Thursday. After six hours of debate and many amendments from opponents, the bill passed. It now goes back to the House for a final vote, which could happen early next week.

Minnesota currently has the weakest anti-bullying law in the country. MNA supports the bill, which will provide schools with the tools to prevent and intervene in cases of bullying so that all of our students feel safe and supported when they come to school.

State Employee Salary Supplement

The Governor recommended an increase in compensation funding for the Department of Human Service’s Direct Care and Treatment State Operated Services programs and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The programs are experiencing compensation pressures of negotiated salary increases and increased costs of employer-paid benefits for current employees. This increase would allow the programs to meet these increasing personnel costs and continue to deliver care to their clients.

This increase was not included in the House and Senate’s Health and Human Services omnibus bills. We’re monitoring negotiations about these and continuing to talk to legislators about the need for this funding, and we think there is still a chance for the funding to be included in the final package.

5% Campaign

Funding to give an increase to long term care workers who do not work in nursing homes was included in both the House and Senate Health and Human Services omnibus bills. The bills include language that would mandate the majority of the funds go directly to workers. We expect this will be a part of the final Health and Human Services finance package.

Nurse Licensure and Discipline

The bills proposing changes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) and how the Board of Nursing handles nurses with substance use disorders and drug diversion are moving through the legislative process (HF1898 and HF1604) . Our priorities remain reflected in the bills – protecting patient safety, treating substance use disorder as a disease, encouraging nurses with substance use disorders to seek rehabilitation treatment, and protecting nurses’ private medical and legal information.

Community EMT

MNA was very concerned about legislation that would create a Community Emergency Medical Technician position that would be reimbursed under Medical Assistance (HF3288/SF2862). The role of the Community EMT would be to provide interventions intended to prevent avoidable ambulance transportation or emergency department use. This could include the performance of minor medical procedures, initial assessments within the Community EMT Scope of Practice, care coordination, diagnosis related to patient education and chronic disease management monitoring. While we recognize that there are gaps in our medical system, MNA opposed this legislation because Community EMTs would not be fully trained in nursing care, therefore not suitable to provide this type of care to the community. This new role could encourage a decrease in public health nursing, an area that is already facing a shortage. We raised these concerns with legislators, and the bill does not appear to be moving this session.

 

 

Nursing Students Connect Practice and Policy

3 Apr 2014 student day on the hill

2014 student day on the hillOn Thursday, April 3, for the seventh consecutive year, the Minnesota Nurses Association hosted students from nursing schools throughout the state for a lesson in advocacy that takes them beyond their bedside responsibilities.

350 students and instructors, representing 14 different schools of nursing attended the day-long event that kicked off with a morning meet & greet with MNA members leaders.  A comprehensive orientation followed, providing students insights about policy issues facing legislators in which nurses have a keen interest, including Nurse Licensing, Monitoring and Discipline; Minimum Wage; Mandatory Flu Vaccine; Department of Health Study of Staffing and Patient Outcomes; and Health Care for All.

The students were inspired by MNA’s Chairperson for its Commission on Governmental Affairs, Mary Turner, RN who encouraged them to become nurse activists. “I know I have influenced a legislator’s perspective,” said Turner.  “I can change a vote. I know I have the power to inspire and champion a law to protect my practice and make my patients safer. All because I talk to my legislator – who represents the neighborhoods and families where I live.”

A panel of former legislators and a Deputy Commissioner also provided valuable hands-on tactical advice for approaching legislators.  Especially unique was the fact this panel consisted of nurse role models – former Representative Maria Ruud, RN, CNP, along with Diane O’Conner, RN, formerly MNA’s lobbyist and Director of Nursing Practice and currently Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education.  Rounding out the panel was former Representative Jeremy Kalin who served with Ruud in the Minnesota House from 2006 – 2010.

Justin Ettl, a student at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, believes that attending the program will benefit his patients and help him to become a better nurse.  “This experience gives us the opportunity to get involved with the legislature and really get our voices heard,” said Ettl.

For Jessica Spencer who graduates from St. Cloud State University in May, speaking up to elected officials is just as important as speaking up at work.  “It’s important to have a nurse on board to help advocate for patient safety,” said Spencer.  “What we do here and now reflects on their health care for the future.”

Andrea Nyquist, also from St. Cloud State, was impressed by the power of collective action embodied in the Minnesota Nurses Association.  “I love seeing how nurses work together to get things done,” she said.

Schools represented at MNA’s 2014 Student Day on the Hill were:

  • Anoka Ramsey Community College Cambridge Campus
  • Bemidji State University
  • Bethel University – Graduate Program
  • Century Community College
  • College of St Benedict/St. John University
  • Hibbing Community College
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Minnesota State College
  • MSU – Mankato
  • Presentation College
  • Ridgewater College
  • Riverland Community College
  • St Catherine’s University
  • St Cloud State University

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The Power of Nurses at Day on the Hill: Legislators drop mandatory flu vaccine bill

1 Apr
huntley01

Nurses meet with mandatory flu vaccine author Rep. Tom Huntley

Minnesota legislators introduced a bill (HF2415/SF2212)to require mandatory flu vaccination for all health care workers. At MNA’s Nurses Day on the Hill on March 11, nurses raised these issues with their respective representatives and senators, including the bills’ sponsors, and brought forward enough concerns that the authors and legislative leaders agreed that the bill should not move forward this year. It is very unusual for a bill’s author to change their mind about an issue after a bill has been introduced, and, to our knowledge, this is the first MNA issue to be withdrawn in recent memory.

 

While MNA considers vaccinations one important public health tool and encourages nurses to consider vaccination as a means of protecting themselves and their patients, we oppose attempts to legally mandate vaccines. Mandatory vaccination alone is not sufficient to protect patients and staff and control the spread of influenza. Nurses raised these concerns with legislators:

 

Thissen

Nurses meet with House Speaker Rep. Paul Thissen.

1)     Mandatory vaccination is a single pronged approach which does not apply the most effective level of protection against the spread of infection

  • Vaccination alone does not ensure patient safety. Overreliance on a vaccine that is only 62 percent effective[i] puts patient and nurse health at risk.
  • “Social distancing” or isolation, i.e. staying home when healthcare workers are sick is a much more effective means of controlling the spread of influenza. Unfortunately, hospitals discipline nurses for using sick time, and many other workers have no sick time at all, which creates a culture that coerces them into working sick and regularly exposing patients to contagious illnesses.
  • Special engineering controls and triaging patients to an infectious containment area are also much more effective measures hospitals do not regularly utilize or enforce.
  • A paramount concern for patient and worker safety is for hospitals to provide adequate staffing that allows nurses necessary time to time to gown, glove, mask, and hand wash sufficiently as they move between patients.
Nurses gather outside the Capitol after all day meetings with legislators.

Nurses gather outside the Capitol after all day meetings with legislators.

2)     Vaccines can result in illness and injuries that are not compensable by workers compensation

  • Serious illness and injury can occur from a flu vaccination and, if mandated, it should be a covered event under worker’s compensation. Workers Compensation currently does not compensate for vaccination illness or injury.

3)     Mandatory Vaccination infringes on nurses’ rights to collective bargaining and privacy

  • Mandatory vaccination for nurses would be a term and condition of employment or mandatory subject of bargaining, which must be negotiated with MNA members and other unionized workers.
  • Some hospitals require non-vaccinated employees to wear surgical masks, which is a violation of the employee’s right to privacy and ineffective at protecting patients and workers from airborne flu transmission. Employees should not be required to disclose personal medical information by requiring them to wear a special tag indicating their vaccination status or requiring the employee to provide medical information on a declination form.
mnagroup1

More than a hundred nurses made the journey to St Paul from across the state of Minnesota for Day on the Hill 2014.

The battle against the flu never stops, and the issue of mandated vaccinations will likely return again. MNA believes future attempts to address the spread of flu should include:

  • a voluntary, free and accessible vaccination program;
  • paid sick time for all workers and no discipline for using sick time;
  • broader infection control measures to limit the spread of illness;
  • a requirement that the Workers Compensation Advisory Council to consider vaccination-related injury or illness a covered and compensable event.

 

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, January 18, 2013

MNA Legislative Update March 28, 2014

28 Mar Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota Nurse Licensing, Monitoring and Discipline
The bills proposing changes to the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP) and how the Board of Nursing handles nurses with substance use disorders and drug diversion are moving through the legislative process. Our priorities remain reflected in the bills – protecting patient safety, treating substance use disorder as a disease, encouraging nurses with substance use disorders to seek rehabilitation treatment, and protecting nurses’ private medical and legal information.

Minimum Wage
The conference committee working on a bill to increase the minimum wage is still hung up on the issue of an automatic inflationary increase for low-wage workers (“indexing”). While both the House and Senate negotiators agree on raising the wage to $9.50 an hour, only the House has proposed to index the wage to inflation, meaning wages for minimum-wage workers would increase based on cost of living increases.

The Senate has repeatedly rejected the concept of indexing the wage. Its latest proposal is to have the voters decide by putting the question of indexing on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. A bill reflecting that proposal was heard in the Senate Jobs Committee this morning and passed on a voice vote. It goes next to the Rules Committee.

MNA is supportive of raising the wage and indexing it to inflation to low-wage workers can catch up and keep up while lifting their families out of poverty. Low-wage workers have waited long enough, and it’s time for legislators to govern. By raising the wage and indexing future increases to inflation, lawmakers can keep politics out of the minimum wage once and for all.

Call to Action: use the MNA Grassroots Action Center to contact your senator and ask him or her to do the job they were elected to do: govern. It’s time to raise the wage and index it to inflation.

5% Campaign
Advocates for long term care workers not working in nursing homes are seeking a 5% increase to match the rate increase nursing home workers received last session. Much like the legislation giving nursing home workers an increase, these long term care workers are also proposing that 75% of the increase be earmarked for compensation of direct care workers. In addition, the employer must come to an agreement about the distribution of funds with the union that represents the workers,if the workers have a collective bargaining agreement.

This increase for long term care workers was included in the House Health and Human Services Finance Bill, which was introduced on Wednesday. We anticipate the Senate will introduce its HHS Finance bill early next week, and we will be watching to see if the increase is included.

State Employee Salary Supplements
The Governor recommended an increase in compensation funding for the Department of Human Service’s Direct Care and Treatment State Operated Services programs and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program. The programs are experiencing compensation pressures due to negotiated salary increases, as well as increased costs of employer-paid benefits for current employees. This increase would allow the programs to meet these increasing personnel costs and continue to deliver care to their clients.

We were disappointed that the House Health and Human Services Finance Omnibus Bill did not include these funds. We are waiting for the Senate’s omnibus bill to be released next week to learn if the funds are included there. MNA is concerned about the situation, and expressing to key legislators how important this funding is to state nurses and other state employees. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Tax Cuts
Last Friday (after the MNA Legislative Update went out) the Governor signed the tax cut bill that was paid for by the $1.2 billion budget surplus. The bill cut $508 million in taxes, some of which will be available immediately during this filing season. The bill cut $230 million in taxes for middle class families, including the elimination of the “marriage penalty” an expansion of the Working Family Tax Credit, and an increase in child care tax credits for 25,000 families. The bill also includes a tax cut for students and parents for tuition and student loan interest. More information about these tax cuts is available on the Governor’s website.

Slayton Nurses Show Courage Beyond the Bedside

27 Mar take-back-mcmc

take-back-mcmc The employees of Murray County Medical Center (MCMC) in Slayton, MN often refer to themselves in the collective as “family.” They are neighbors and friends who care for neighbors and friends in the most of vulnerable times.    In recent years, however, circumstances for patients on some of the hospital’s shifts at the county-owned hospital became so alarming that many of those family members have left the facility. Nurses, physicians, physician assistants and others have either resigned or were forced out – some amidst the disruption of legal wrangling.

Several months ago, nurses who are also MNA Stewards surveyed their co-workers and the results pointed to the hostile environment, fears about inadequate staffing and the fact it is impossible for nurses to be two places at once due to the distance between patient care units.

Julie Lind, a member of MNA who worked at MCMC for the past six years was one of those who could no longer accept the situation. “I believe patients and co-workers were in an unsafe environment,” said Lind. “I resigned because I felt nursing ethics were being violated.”  More than once Lind worked a shift alone on her med-surg unit caring for seven patients, with only one other RN in the hospital, who was two hundred feet away in the ER unit.  In November, Lind herself was injured while on duty.  She despairs most for co-workers who remain, however.  One colleague recently hurt her back and Lind was called in to relieve her.  “She was in tears.  This is a registered nurse who is as good as it’s going to get,” said Lind.

Most of the former and current employees point to a common source of the problems facing the hospital.  CEO Mel Snow arrived at MCMC in 2006 after questionable tenures in other health care facilities. One claim alleged he had stripped a publicly-owned hospital in Nebraska to usher it at a bargain price into the hands of Sanford Healthcare.  Some speculated Snow had similar intentions for MCMC. A number of employees believe Snow surrounded himself with other managers who went along with him as he operated in an atmosphere in which bullying was not only allowed but encouraged, which fostered an environment of intimidation and fear.

It was MNA nurses who inspired a public uprising of awareness and action.  During a February meeting of the County Commissioners (who also act as the hospital Board of Directors), nurses Monica VanOtterloo, Sara Lewis and Donna Thomson all spoke their truths to the admiring applause of audience members.

“I love my job,” said Lewis.  “But we have a lot of concerns that we’ve brought to administration regarding safety related to staffing.”  Lewis urged the Commissioners to do something, saying, “I’m very afraid.” Thomson called on the Commissioners to capture reality by conducting an employee satisfaction survey and exit interviews of those who left.  She posed the concerns that reflected a majority of sentiment that night.  “What’s it going to take?  How many more nurses? What are we going to do if we don’t have nurses?”

Within days of the confrontation, a public Facebook page emerged, entitled “Taking Back MCMC.”  Community members were on fire with discussion and ideas for next steps. Participants expressed support for all MCMC workers and even shared their own stories of suffering due to poor staffing.

On the night of a planned citizen meeting, the group learned some welcome news.  Mr. Snow had delivered his own resignation to the Commissioners.

While heartened, there’s no return to complacency for MCMC providers and Murray County residents.  One of the most recent posts on the Facebook page reads “try and stay positive and dwell on remaining a community who fought for safe working conditions and a county hospital.  We have a ways to go, but working together got us this far.”

In the wake of Snow’s departure, there is a general consensus that remaining hospital management has a lot of work to do in order to earn back the trust of the entire staff by demonstrating that they are listening and will make the necessary changes.   Employees and community members have expressed concern that, while some members of management may quietly be relieved the former CEO is gone, other managers may have been “cut from the same cloth” as Snow.

Those seeking change in the hospital culture warn that if managers are not able to learn and adapt, additional problems at MCMC will need to be resolved in order for MCMC to have a healthy workplace for attracting and retaining staff.  An optimal environment for staff would be to have all of the ethical, emotional and physical support they need while they deliver outstanding patient care.

MNA nurses have made it a goal to help community members regain confidence in the hospital. They have already conducted meetings in an attempt to open the gates of communication, knowing that getting input from employees for decisions on future issues will help significantly.  “We know it will take a lot for the trust to come back, but we are hopeful,” said Thomson.

Additional links:

KWOA AM 730 Radio:  Unhappy Crowd Attends Murray County Medical Center Community Meeting

KSFY TV:  Slayton, Minn. Concerned for County Hospital

MNA Legislative Update March 21, 2014

21 Mar Minnesota State Capitol St Paul Minnesota

Minnesota State Capitol St Paul MinnesotaMNA Legislative Update

March 21, 2014

 

Nurse Licensure/Discipline

SF 1890/HF 1898:  Nurse Licensing and Discipline Bill

Nurse Licensing and Monitoring bills are moving forward in both the House and Senate after hearings this week to try to address objections of stakeholders. In the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, the bill was amended to require the Board of Nursing to follow the same standards as other health licensing boards related to felony level criminal sexual offenses and remove a provision that would exempt the Board of Nursing from considering whether a nurse was rehabilitated when granting or renewing their license. Most importantly, the bill was also amended to clarify that violations of practice related to chemical dependency will be reported to the board only if they occur after the individual has begun monitoring by the Health Professional Services Program (HPSP).  This will preserve the autonomy of the program and continue to encourage health professionals with chemical dependency issues to self-report.

In the House, the companion bill HF 1898 was heard on Wednesday in the State Government Finance committee.  The House version of the bill was amended to remove a provision moving the administration of the Health Professional Services Program to the Department of Administration.  It is the intention of the committee to revisit this issue again next year after the Management Analysis Division assesses the program.

Both bills include language that would require health licensing boards to complete any investigations into health professionals who present an imminent risk of harm within 60 days of suspending their license.  We recognize that this is an imperfect solution and a hardship for nurses; it addresses the current gap between the discharge of a nurse from HPSP and discipline by the Board of Nursing, which sometimes can take many months and put patients at risk.

SF 1181/HF 1604:  Mandatory Reporting of Drug Diversion

SF 1181, a bill mandating that employers report known diversion of controlled substances by employees of licensed health care organizations, was amended to again protect the integrity of HPSP.  An amendment was adopted by the bill author, Senator Carla Nelson, to exempt employers who learn about diversion due to an employee’s participation in HPSP.  This change will ensure that health care professionals will not be deterred from self-reporting because they may be required to notify their employer.  The bill is now identical to the house version and was sent to both the floor and laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

Minimum Wage

The bill to increase the Minimum Wage is still in negotiations between the House and Senate, and the sticking point continues to be whether it includes an automatic increase for inflation (indexing). The conference committee on this bill did not meet this week but advocates for $9.50 an hour plus indexing. Nurses have been meeting, calling and emailing their senators in record numbers. Where is your Senator on the minimum wage? Visit the blog Bluestem Prairie to see information collected by advocates for a higher minimum wage. If your Senator’s position is not included, contact them through the MNA Grassroots Action Center and ask them to raise the wage to allow low-wage workers to catch up and keep up!

If you’d like to do more and contact other union members to encourage them to call their Senator, there are minimum wage phone banks happening all over the state, in Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Cloud, Brainerd and Worthington. Visit raisethewagemn.org and enter your ZIP code to find phonebanks in your region.

Women’s Economic Security Act

The WESA is a package of proposals to address barriers to women’s economic progress. It includes proposals for:

  • Closing the gender pay gap, requiring private businesses that contract with the state to report on pay equity within their workforce.
  • Increasing income for working women and their families by increasing the minimum wage to $9.50.
  • Expanding access to high-quality, affordable childcare.
  • Expanding family and sick leave for working families, including paid sick and safe leave and expanding unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act.
  • Enhance protections for victims of domestic violence.
  • Encouraging women in non-traditional, high-wage jobs and support growth for women-owned small businesses.

The bill was heard in the House Jobs committee and passed unanimously and will move on to the Ways and Means committee. The companion bill is moving in the Senate and will be heard in committee soon.  MNA supports the WESA because addressing the economic gaps between men and women, strengthens all working families.

Budget and Taxes

After years of deficits and bookkeeping gimmicks, Minnesota is on firm financial footing with a projected $1.2 billion surplus. One of the major tasks of this legislative session is to come up with a supplemental budget and tax bill. The Senate, House, and Governor each have proposals including some tax cuts, some new spending, and placing some funds in a budget reserve for a “rainy day.”  Once the House and Senate pass their tax bills, they will have to reconcile the differences between them, the most important of which is the House tax cut is greater than the Senate’s. We anticipate swift action on the tax bill.

Synthetic Drug bill

Representative Erik Simonson of Duluth has proposed a bill to stop the retail sales of synthetic drugs and provide education about the dangers of synthetics drugs for young people. With bipartisan support, the bill continues to move swiftly through the legislature; it passed the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and will move on to the Health and Human Services Finance Committee.  The Senate companion bill, authored by Senator Roger Reinert of Duluth, is waiting to be heard by the Health, Human Services and Housing Committee of the Senate. MNA supports this important legislation.

Tanning

To address the dramatic rise in cases of melanoma and other skin cancers in young people, Senator Chris Eaton (an RN and member of MNA) and Representative JoAnn Ward introduced a bill to ban the use of tanning facilities by minors. Because the nursing profession strives to advance and promote the health and well-being of the public, MNA supports this bill to address a serious public health risk.

Mandatory Flu Vaccine

Earlier this session, legislators introduced a bill to require mandatory flu vaccination for all health care workers. While MNA considers vaccinations one important public health tool and encourages nurses to consider vaccination as a means of protecting themselves and their patients, we oppose attempts to legally mandate vaccines. Vaccination alone is not sufficient to protect patients and staff and control the spread of influenza. Mandating vaccine alone puts people more at risk because this approach ignores the fact the vaccine will only be effective in 6 out of 10 vaccinated and leave 4 out of 10 to potentially transmit the disease to others. There are also many other more effective measures to implement when attempting to control the spread of infectious disease, including allowing health care workers to use sick time when they’re sick without risking discipline. MNA nurses raised these concerns at Nurses Day on the Hill last week, and we are pleased to report that the bill appears to have been tabled for this session. We believe future attempts to address the spread of flu include:

  • a voluntary, free and accessible vaccination program;
  • paid sick time for all workers and no discipline for using sick time;
  • broader infection control measures to limit the spread of illness;
  • a requirement that the Workers Compensation Advisory Council to consider vaccination-related injury or illness a covered and compensable event.

 

Steve’s Law

Senator Chris Eaton introduced a bill to allow first responders to administer Naloxone, an opioid inhibitor, in cases of heroin overdose. MNA is supportive of this legislation as a way to address the rise in drug overdoses and deaths in Minnesota, and we are pleased to see the bill moving through the legislative process, on track for passage this session.

5% Campaign

Last session legislators passed a much-needed rate increase for nursing homes, 75% of which was required to go to workers. This year, advocates for long term care workers who do not work in nursing homes are proposing a 5% rate increase as well. It is our hope that the final legislation will include a similar requirement that 75% of the funds go to workers. This bill is moving and MNA supports it.

E-Cigarettes

MNA supports legislation that would regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco, including prohibiting their sales and marketing to children, and marketing as a smoking cessation tool. The bill is moving through the legislative process and we anticipate it is on track for passage.

Medical Marijuana

The bill to legalize medical marijuana has run into opposition from law enforcement organizations, and advocates met with the Governor this week to work out a compromise that will help some patients access treatment. MNA is in support of legislation allowing the use of medical marijuana under the supervision and direction of a physician for the alleviation of pain and nausea caused by certain conditions such as chemotherapy treatment, AIDS, seizures and glaucoma.

Willmar Nurses Go to City Hall

18 Mar IMG_1570

Nurses from Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar, Minnesota, showed up in full force with their families to report to the City Council the community needs first-rate nurses and first-rate patient care.

Carolyn Jorgenson, RN, MNA Board member told council members who are the trustees for the hospital that the facility’s management team has set a poor tone with nurses.  She told a sea of MNA red in the audience that the employer has delivered an underlying message of disrespect for the value of nursing for the community.

Here are excerpts of the comments offered by Jorgenson at last night’s City Council meeting:

“I absolutely LOVE and live nursing.  I believe Rice Memorial Hospital has some of the most dedicated, intelligent and professional nurses and staff that I have ever worked with and the patients get the best nursing care around. But I am here tonight because I am concerned things could quickly change.

The nurses of Rice Memorial Hospital are deeply concerned about the tone set by management’s concessionary proposals made in negotiations with those of us represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association.

The underlying message delivered indicates a disrespect for the value nurses provide in delivering quality care to our friends and family. We are dedicated to taking care of all of the Grandmas and Grandpas, Moms and Dads and children who live in our community. My coworkers and I take pride in delivering my neighbor’s babies here and comforting your ailing Aunts and Uncles when they are in need. This community based Hospital allows us to care for not just patients, but our own friends and families.

We also caution that, should those proposals take effect, the consequences to our beloved community could be dire. When seeking concessions of this magnitude, while other facilities continue to increase investments in the wages and benefits of the nurses, Rice Memorial could become a revolving workforce door. This situation only serves to compromise the continuity of care. It will likely prove to be an economic mistake due to higher retention and recruitment fees. Each time a nurse is replaced, the organization pays the equivalent of at least a year’s salary in expenses. That just doesn’t make common sense.

We ask you to invest in the people who care for those who are at their most vulnerable. Keep the highly skilled registered nurses here in their own community; don’t force nurses to leave Rice Memorial because the hospital no longer offers a competitive wage and benefit package.”

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MNA Legislative Update, March 14, 2014

14 Mar MNA-with-Sen.-Bakk

MNA-with-Sen.-BakkNurses Day on the Hill 2014

Nurses had a great and productive day on March 11 visiting the Capitol and their respective representatives and senators.  Hundreds of nurses came out to educate lawmakers and without a specific bill to push in this short session, representatives and senators were happy just to have an education where they could learn about healthcare policy and the practice of nursing.  Nurses brought many issues to lawmakers’ attention for the first time, which they said they appreciated.  See below.

Health Care Professionals and Monitoring

There are now two bills moving through the Minnesota legislature.  SF 1890 passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week and is now headed for a committee hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday at noon.  This is the bill MNA expressed some concerns about, including its automatic suspension of licenses and disclosure of confidential information about discharged nurses to the Board of Nursing.

HF 1898, however, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday night and is now headed for a date with the House State Government Finance Committee.  This bill got a few amendments, which strengthened the bill’s abilities to monitor licensees and protect patient safety.  In the House version, a licensee will be suspended only if the person poses an “imminent” risk to patients; licensees will be barred from practicing for 10 years if they’ve been convicted of a felony level criminal sexual conduct crime; and licensing boards will be required to educate licensees about the HPSP options.

Synthetic Drugs

Duluth Representative Erik Simonson’s bill to outlaw synthetic drugs and reduce the devastating effects these substances are having on patients is moving fast.  The bill also passed the House and Human Services Committee and could be headed to the House floor very soon.

Minimum Wage

The push to raise the minimum wage to a living wage in Minnesota continues to be stalled.  While legislators in the House and Senate agree with MNA that the wage should go up to $9.50/hour, the sticking point now is indexing.  Senators are saying they don’t have enough support yet to pass the bill if the wage goes up in relation to inflation.  Nurses have sent dozens of emails and letters to their state representatives and senator, and they’re being noticed.  Keep the effort going to allow everyone in Minnesota to earn a livable wage that promotes a healthy lifestyle.  Need some inspiration?  Check out President Hamilton’s speech to supporters here:  link.

 

E-Cigs

A bill to regulate e-cigarettes just as the state classifies other smoking tools is moving through the Capitol.  MNA has written to lawmakers with concerns that the marketing of “e-cigs” is aimed predominantly to children.  HF 1931 extends tobacco regulation to e-cigarettes, specifically prohibiting them in schools and preventing the marketing and selling of e-cigs to minors.

 

Flu Vaccine

State representatives and senators were surprised to hear about the introduction of a bill to require all healthcare workers to receive a flu vaccination each year.  The measure struck a chord of overreach on personal freedoms to them, and nurses informed lawmakers that a mandatory flu shot actually could reduce flu fighting efforts.  Studies show a comprehensive approach to battling the spread of the influenza virus works best, including other measures such as handwashing, regular germ-killing cleaners, and allowing workers to stay home when they’re sick.  A mandatory flu shot would not be the silver bullet that combats the spread of the flu.

Sandstone Nurses Stand Strong Against Management’s Rights Clause

11 Mar

Sandstone SignThey are a gritty bunch in this rural northern Minnesota hospital. The 25 nurses of Essentia Health – Sandstone ran a vigorous organizing campaign and successfully won MNA representation in Dec., 2012. Since then, first-time contract negotiations have tested endurance and patience. Now, after 11 months and 22 sessions, the new MNA unit is fortifying its resolve even more over a management proposal to include a Management Rights clause.

The insidious paragraph is so vague, it creates a management perception that wholesale changes can be made on a whim. “We can’t possibly think of everything that might come up during the term of the contract and this language would allow them to think they could arbitrarily change something, and we’d have no chance to bargain,” said MNA nurse negotiator Tara Mach. Her colleague, Erin Olson offers her perspective of why this is an issue. “Sometimes the most convenient choice for management is not always the best for the patients we care for,” said Olson.

The proposal doesn’t sit well with nurses, especially on the heels of an organizing drive. “We’ve had enough of management’s dismissive behavior,” said Mach. “That’s why we sought MNA representation in the first place.”

Sandstone nurses are determined to secure a contract that assures them a place at the table, with assurances if management wants to change anything about employment circumstances, that nurses get a say. “We need to have a voice on decisions that impact patient care,” said Olson. “A contract provides rules that are fair for both the employer and the employee.”

The group is surrounded in a sea of support. “They are not alone, and have the comfort of knowing 20,000 nurses will back them up,” said Essentia Health St. Mary’s Co-Chair Mary Kirsling. She commended her colleagues, saying “This small group of RNs bravely took this on.

Kirsling echoed the concerns of the Sandstone nurses about the management rights proposal. “It undermines the whole contract. It causes management to think you don’t have an agreement and they have no responsibility. According to Kirsling, management rights not only compromises the contract, but patient care as well. “They perceive they can cut corners and sidestep nursing judgment. That makes my skin crawl.”

Kirsling warned that the implications may go beyond Sandstone. “We can’t budge on that, because it will spread in future. This could impact every nurse in Essentia and in the state,” she said. Erin Olson welcomes the backing. “We need to stick together. We have a voice, and together we can be heard!”

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