St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News)- Mayo Clinic has won exemption from a nurse staffing bill being negotiated in St. Paul. 

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Earlier this month, a Mayo Clinic lobbyist sent an email to Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders warning them billions of dollars of planned investments in Minnesota could be in jeopardy if the Nurses at the Bedside Act, which requires hospitals to form committees with significant representation of nurses that would set staffing levels that would limit the number of patients based on the number of nurses assigned to care for them. Mayo has also opposed a measure that would penalize hospitals that exceed spending growth limits that would be set by a new state Health Care Affordability Board. 

Last week House Speaker Melissa Hortman said during an interview with WCCO that Mayo is different from other hospitals in the state and said lawmakers will reach a deal to exempt the Rochester-based healthcare giant from the bill. Lawmakers officially agreed to include the compromise in the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill, that passed out of a conference committee Saturday and is now heading back to the House and Senate for final votes. 

Credit: Stephen Maturen, Getty Images
Credit: Stephen Maturen, Getty Images

Rochester DFL Sen. Liz Bolden, who is a nurse at Mayo Clinic said even at Mayo Clinic, "Nurses are struggling.  Patients' safety and well-being is suffering.  The status quo is unsustainable." 

Bolden. Minnesota Senate photographer's office
Bolden. Minnesota Senate photographer's office

“[We have a] proposal that I hope stands the test, that is durable, and achieves the goal that is, at least for me, stated — that we are retaining our nurses in the care of patients in our hospitals and that the people who are getting that care in our hospitals are getting the very best care that we can deliver together,” said Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul). 

Amy Williams, MD, Executive Dean of Practice and Chair, Mayo Clinic Clinical Practice Committee, Mayo Clinic, said in the following statement :

Mayo continues to advocate for a policy-based, data-driven approach that supports an alternative path to compliance for all hospitals and health systems, including Mayo Clinic Rochester and Mayo Clinic Health System locations, that use an acuity tool incorporating nurse input and patient needs. We believe any hospital that meets this high standard should be able to pursue this pathway. We encourage lawmakers to adopt this approach that reflects policies focused on patients and staff.

The legislation has the backing of the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), however the exemption for the Mayo Clinic does not. MNA President Mary Turner released the following statement regarding the revised version of the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act passing out of conference committee Saturday: 

Someday, all of us and our loved ones will need care in a hospital. When that day comes, people need to know there are enough skilled nurses at the bedside to provide the safe, high-quality care all patients deserve. The Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act is a historic step forward that will give nurses a seat at the table and a voice in the process to improve staffing levels, bring nurses back to the bedside, and protect patient care throughout the state.

“Our hearts break for the nurses at Mayo Clinic Health System who will be denied a voice in the process of safe staffing by their own corporate executives. It is disheartening and disappointing that Mayo executives chose to issue an anti-democratic ultimatum and walk away from the better patient care conditions and nurse retention this bill will offer at more than ninety percent of Minnesota hospitals. To the nurses and patients at Mayo, please know: the brave nurses of MNA fought for you, while Mayo executives fought to silence, sideline, and subvert your voice, your concerns, and your wellbeing.

“Nurses denounce Governor Tim Walz for his abdication of good government and acquiescence to anti-democratic and anti-labor corporate bullies. By allowing corporate executives to dictate our public policy behind closed doors, Governor Walz has made clear to Minnesotans that their democratic process does not work for them, but for the wealthy and powerful few. One year ago, Governor Walz stood with nurses on the strike line and promised no piece of anti-labor law would ever make it past his desk. By siding with the profits and power of corporate executives over the rights and needs of patients and workers, Governor Walz has made clear he will only side with labor when corporate interests concede.

“Nurses are incredibly thankful for the strong stance of the vast majority of Minnesota legislators who opposed the extortion tactics of a multi-billion-dollar healthcare corporation, including the lead authors of this bill, Senator Erin Murphy and Representative Sandra Feist, who continue to fight hard for safe staffing and quality patient care for all Minnesotans. With the strong support of Minnesota patients and a bipartisan, pro-nurse majority in the Minnesota legislature, it is time to take bold action to hold hospital executives accountable and give nurses a voice to help improve staffing levels, bring nurses back to the bedside, and protect patient care.

The Minnesota Hospital Association, which opposes the nurse staffing bill has not commented on the revised version of the legislation, however has expressed opposition to the measure throughout the legislative session. 

Kim David/TSM
Kim David/TSM

Mayo has not publicly said which investments would be in jeopardy if the bill became law without the exemption, however anonymous sources and images obtained by KROC News indicate Mayo is planning a major development in downtown Rochester that includes potentially a new hospital, laboratory and parking structure. 

A vote on the final bills has not been scheduled, however both the House and Senate are set to hold floor sessions on Sunday. The legislative session ends on Monday. 

Story updated to include comment from Mayo Clinic. 


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