Nurses celebrate wins for patients and healthcare workers as 2024 legislative session ends

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sam Fettig
(c) 612-741-0662
sam.fettig@mnnurses.orgLauren Bloomquist
(c) 651-376-9709
lauren.bloomquist@mnnurses.org

(St. Paul) – May 24, 2024 – Nurses with the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) today celebrated the passage of key priorities for patients and healthcare workers this legislative session that will help to put patient needs before corporate greed in our healthcare system. Despite the limited scope of this session, which saw many other proposals fall by the wayside, nurses organized and mobilized to press lawmakers on the need to take action on key healthcare issues this year.

“Thanks to the voices and efforts of Minnesota patients, nurses, and other healthcare workers, the changes won in this legislative session will help ensure our state’s healthcare system works better for those it is meant to serve,” said Chris Rubesch, RN, MNA President. “At the ballot box, the Capitol, and the bargaining table, we will continue to fight for a healthcare system that puts patient needs before corporate greed in our hospitals.”

Among nurse priorities passed into law this session were: expanded RN student loan forgiveness, with ongoing funding and increased eligibility; language requiring more public notice and an in-person, community meeting in the case of hospital closures or service reductions, as well as strict fines for hospitals who do not comply, and the right for communities to buy back hospitals slated for closure; new reporting requirements for hospitals to require them to show where they are spending their money when they claim they are providing a community benefit; and continuation of a Minnesota Department of Health annual report on cases of preventable harm, injury, and death to patients in a hospital setting.

MNA nurses also advocated for and secured approval for an audit to be conducted by the Office of the Legislative Auditor on nonprofit hospitals’ community benefits spending. The audit, to be conducted this year, will compare hospitals’ claimed benefits spending to the tax exemptions given to them. The audit will also examine what percentage of community benefit spending is dedicated to charity care, and what changes could be made to nonprofit hospitals’ reporting to better address community health needs.

In addition to these top priorities, nurses supported a new law to mitigate the harmful effects on patients and healthcare professionals from smoke that results from surgical procedures, and joined other workers to push back on three bills that would have taken Minnesota backwards for patients, workers, and our healthcare system. These bills included a proposal to bring Minnesota into the Nurse Licensure Compact, a system to undermine union nurses’ power in the workplace and that would put access to abortion, reproductive, and gender-affirming care at risk for Minnesota patients. In coalition with other workers’ unions, MNA nurses also defeated a proposed bill to undermine the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners’ ability to provide checks and balances on the operation of Hennepin County Medical Center, and a proposal to reduce the 12-week paid leave program passed last year to only 11 weeks of paid leave.

While these mark important legislative victories, nurses remain committed to advancing the larger priorities they advocated for this legislative session, including tougher regulations on hospital and service closures, limits and reporting requirements on hospital CEO and executive salaries, and laws to retain nurses at the bedside and ensure patients receive safe, high-quality care from enough trained, staffed workers. Legislative leaders on healthcare issues, including House Health Chair Rep. Tina Liebling, Rep. Robert Bierman, and Senate Health Chair Sen. Melissa Wiklund made a commitment to nurses to continue strengthening hospital regulations and laws around service closures in the coming legislative session.

In addition to electing champions for patients and nurses this fall, and pushing important legislation at the Capitol next session, nurses will continue the fight to address the crisis of patient care and nurse retention in our hospitals at the bargaining table next spring, when contracts will expire for 15,000 nurses in the Twin Cities and Twin Ports.

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