By Mat Keller, RN, JD, MNA Regulatory and Policy Nursing Specialist
What does the Allina strike mean for non-Allina nurses? I’m sure if you’re a nurse in Minnesota, Iowa, or Wisconsin, you’ve asked yourself a similar question. And it’s not unreasonable. What, exactly, does the Allina strike mean for the profession?
Nothing less than our future.
Allina Health is a corporate entity that has managed to build up $1.3 billion in stock market reserves, $160 million in Caribbean bank accounts, and $300 million in cash, according to its most recent federal Form 990 financial disclosures. Why does a Minnesota nonprofit healthcare system need such money?
To get the union out of the way. While presenting the MNA perspective of Allina negotiations to University of Minnesota nursing students recently, I was struck by how often the word “flexibility” was used by my counterpart, a nurse manager at the Mayo clinic.
But flexibility doesn’t really go to the benefit of the workers or the patients. Have you tried showing up an hour late and claiming the benefit of “flexibility”? Refusing an unsafe assignment?
If Allina can get the union out of the way, it will achieve ultimate flexibility. Flexibility to institute poor staffing initiatives without nurse input. Flexibility to invest in risky startup companies without criticism. Flexibility to decrease total compensation of employees. Flexibility to institute the corporatization of healthcare.
That’s why we all must join together to fight this battle against the corporatization of healthcare. Consider the following:
- The North Suburban Hospital District, composed of elected officials from the cities that own Unity Hospital in Fridley, is in the process of dissolving itself and selling Unity Hospital to Allina for $1. This happened to the District One Hospital in Faribault and continues to happen to community-owned hospitals across the country as “nonprofit” institutions shed community oversight as a barrier to “flexibility.” Stay tuned to Hennepin County Medical Center, which is going through a name change to eliminate the word “county,” instituting layoffs to achieve benchmarking goals, and building a glitzy outpatient surgical center — atypical and business-oriented moves for a county safety net hospital.
- Allina stockpiled $1.76 billion while nobody was paying attention. How does a nonprofit hoard such enormous sums? By pretending that it’s not all about the profits. We, as nurses and as an organization, must do a better job of paying attention to the finances of our nonprofit institutions, and respond when it becomes evident that they are building a war chest.
- “Kaiserfication.” Kaiserfication is the “integration” of a health system, so that the provider is the insurer and the payer. Supposedly, this creates “efficiencies.” But it also creates monopolies and conflicts of interest. Attorney General Mike Hatch dealt a blow to the Kaiserfication of Allina Health back in 2002, but it’s back with a vengeance, and many market commentators believe that it is the wave of the future. In fact, Allina just announced that it is forming a new insurance company with Aetna. Stay tuned to the composition of the board of directors of this new corporation.
- Corporatization of healthcare. Hourly rounding. Patient scripts. HCAHPS (patient survey) scores. These are the hallmarks of big business, not quality patient care. If Allina, and other healthcare providers, can get rid of the union, there is no impediment to interventions that are intended to improve customer service while doing nothing for patient care.
Why does the Allina strike matter? Because the fight is coming to you too — soon.