FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Amber Smigiel
Nurses shared concerns to Hennepin County Board that pushed them to appropriate funds
(St. Paul) – November 6, 2023 – Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) employed by Hennepin Healthcare today announced they were able to gain assistance to lower their healthcare costs from the Hennepin County Commissioners through their strong advocacy.
After informing Hennepin County Commissioner Board Chair Irene Fernando about the large cuts that were announced to their health plans and the impacts the cuts will have on recruitment and retention in an already understaffed hospital, nurses learned late last week that the Hennepin County Board approved an $8 million appropriation to help fix the insurance issues. Though nurses appreciate this appropriation, it is not enough to fill the budget gap and there may still be a flight of healthcare workers due to the financial challenges this will cause.
Nurses call on the Board to not approve the Hennepin Health System budget until the healthcare administration is willing to take steps to improve their budget and ensure worker retention and quality patient care are prioritized with their investments.
“While we celebrate a win against hospital executives’ attempts to place a financial burden on workers by slashing our benefits, hiking our premiums, and inflating deductibles, we know this appropriation won’t solve the other problems we are experiencing,” said Jeremy Olson-Ehlert, RN at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC). “Nurses continue to experience violence in the workplace and bear the brunt of chronic understaffing caused by the shortage of a safe, supportive working environment that can prevent us from being able to provide the quality care we strive to deliver.”
HCMC healthcare workers learned days before their open enrollment started that their health insurance benefits were being cut dramatically leaving them no time to prepare for the change. Nurse leaders tried to get information about what caused this drastic benefit cut in the same year that their CEO Jennifer DeCubellis received a substantial raise, bringing her salary to over $1 million dollars and the hospital receiving millions of dollars from the state and federal governments.
Hennepin Healthcare’s attempt to exponentially raise healthcare costs for nurses and other workers comes as the Minnesota Department of Health recently disclosed that in 2022, HCMC was responsible for ten percent of all reportable adverse events in the state. Records show that in a single year, the number of such incidents doubled, with a staggering sixty preventable adverse events reported. Many of these occurrences are directly related to staffing shortages, which not only jeopardize patient safety but also affect the hospital’s ability to sustain itself financially.
Before reaching out to Hennepin County Commissioners for assistance, nurses sent nearly 500 emails to DeCubellis to express their grave concerns about her attempts to place an additional financial burden on HCMC workers while giving herself a massive raise and claiming a budget crisis. As of today, nurses have not received any response from her.
Nurses have raised these concerns for years and were compelled to picket in 2022 for the first time ever, underscoring the gravity of the situation. In addition, an internal survey conducted by the Minnesota Nurses Association revealed that a staggering 81% of respondents believe patient safety is at risk. Workplace violence and harassment are rampant, with 97% of nurses saying they experienced such incidents. However, lack of time, understaffing, and inaction by hospital management deter them from reporting.
Nurses will continue to demand transparency and accountability from Hennepin Healthcare executives because patients, community members, and dedicated healthcare professionals deserve better.