The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

February 21, 2013

Minn. nurse staffing debate heats up at Capitol

— Minnesota lawmakers fell into partisan camps Thursday as a House panel advanced a bill seeking state regulations on the number of nurses working shifts in hospitals.

The Democratic-led House Labor, Workplace, and Regulated Industries Committee endorsed the nurse staffing bill on a 9-6 party-line vote after hearing charged testimony from both sides in a long-simmering dispute. Unionized nurses argued the standards are needed to ensure patient safety, and hospital industry professionals cast it as government intrusion in medical decision-making.

The concept of staffing ratios has been a hot topic for years at the bargaining table, but the Minnesota Nurses Association sees opportunity with a Democratic-dominated state government to gain advantage in law. A bill the union is promoting doesn't include explicit quotas but it would demand hospital-by-hospital staffing requirements that would be developed over the next year. The standards would differ by unit and by the severity of patient health woes.

"If hospitals won't listen to nurses that we're stretched too thin to properly change dressings, then perhaps they'll listen to you," said Joe Howard, a registered nurse in an intensive care burn unit at a Duluth hospital.

Lawrence Massa, president of the Minnesota Hospital Association, accused the nurses union of working to "undermine the collective bargaining process" by getting lawmakers to intervene on their behalf. He noted that the standards would apply to all hospitals even though a majority of the facilities in the state aren't unionized and most get high marks for quality care.

"The simple truth is, quotas do not equal quality," he said.

The plan would establish a system of record keeping for hospitals and potential punishments for those that fall short of the standards. Staffing levels, which would be determined by evidence-based protocols or a newly created government board, would have to be posted in waiting areas for staff, patients and the public. Annual reports from hospitals would include details on the hours-per-patient that nurses work.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Congress reaches agreement on VA reform With days left before the August break, congressional leaders unveiled a $17 billion bipartisan compromise Monday to fix the tattered Department of Veterans Affairs.

    July 28, 2014

  • Residency case targets state GOP legislator A residency dispute involving a Minnesota legislator has landed in court and could put a Republican-held seat in contention at a time when the party is fighting to wrest chamber control from Democrats.

    July 28, 2014

  • 8,000 get false notice of health care cancellation ST. PAUL — More than 8,000 low-income Minnesotans received erroneous notices that their health coverage would be temporarily canceled if they don't pay up. A July 17 notice warned MinnesotaCare subscribers that they faced a four-month coverage locko

    July 28, 2014

  • ND deputy hurt in scuffle Suspect charged with assaulting, trying to disarm law officer

    July 28, 2014

  • Fergus Falls plans deer hunt Hunters are selected by a lottery, pay $20 fee

    July 28, 2014

  • Man killed in home invasion Homeowner's son in Ray, Minn., fires fatal shot

    July 28, 2014

  • Charges filed in July 8 fatal Dodge Center woman criminally charged in fatal car crash

    July 28, 2014

  • American doctor in Africa gets treatment for Ebola BOONE, N.C. (AP) — An American doctor infected with the deadly Ebola disease received intensive treatment Sunday in West Africa and was in stable condition, talking to his medical team and working on his computer, a spokeswoman for an aid group said.

    July 27, 2014

  • Salmonella Outbreak Trial [Duplicate] Trial in salmonella outbreak to start in Georgia ATLANTA (AP) — Three people accused of scheming to manufacture and ship salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed nine people, sickened more than 700 and prompted one of the largest food recalls in history are set to go to trial this week in south Georg

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitfalls emerge in health insurance renewals WASHINGTON — For the 8 million people who persevered through all the technical travails in the new health insurance exchanges and managed to sign up for coverage in 2014, their policies will probably automatically renew come November when open enroll

    July 27, 2014