FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sam Fettig
First-of-its-kind public hearing is the result of a new law championed by MNA
(St. Paul) – November 18, 2021 – This evening, Minnesota Nurses Association members joined more than 60 participants in a virtual public hearing on Allina Health’s plan to close labor and delivery services at Regina Hospital in Hastings. This cost-cutting move by Allina will negatively impact patient care and the community, as people going into labor will now need to travel an additional 23 miles to St. Paul to receive care at United or Children’s Hospitals.
Tonight’s public hearing was the first of its kind under a new state law championed by MNA and passed by the legislature in June 2021, which requires public notice and a public hearing before a hospital closes or relocates or ends certain services. Among those who raised concerns about the move were an Obstetrics doctor from the Allina Health Hastings Clinic, along with former patients and other community members who will be impacted by the unit closure.
“I am proud of the work the Minnesota Legislature did to pass this new law, with the support of Minnesota nurses, to provide greater transparency about hospital decisions,” said State Senator Karla Bigham, whose district includes Hastings. “While the relocation of labor and delivery services is unfortunate, I hope this hearing provided valuable information for the community and for hospital administrators. It is essential that people know what kinds of services will be available to them in the future.”
While this law was designed to bring community and employee concerns into consideration when hospitals make these decisions, Allina officials announced before the hearing even took place that: “The decision is already made. And, we will not be reversing our decision based on the public comment.”
“I am incredibly upset by Allina’s decision to close labor and delivery services at Regina,” said Heidi Deutsch, Obstetrics RN at Regina Hospital. “Our patients chose us because we are in the community, because they know the nurses and doctors who have been here for years. For the nurses who have worked through the pandemic it feels awful to be displaced without concern from the administration for the staff and especially our community. Leaving such a large gap in Obstetric care is unfair and not safe for our patients.”
Nurses at United and Children’s in St. Paul, where labor and delivery services will be moved, are already straining to do more with less under poor working conditions and understaffing by Allina. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Hospital laid off 180 nurses, or around 17 percent of its nursing workforce, and later laid off or left unfilled another 300 hospital positions. In downtown St. Paul, hospital closures have put additional pressure on nurses managing surging caseloads at remaining facilities.
“As COVID cases surge again and we see a significant increase of pediatric cases, patients who need inpatient care are being held in our emergency rooms, decreasing timely access to emergency and critical care,” said Sydney Pederson, RN at Children’s Hospital. “Directing more patients to facilities where nurses are already working beyond capacity will place a further burden on the health and safety of our nurses, patients, and community.”
COVID-19 and Minnesota Hospitals
Years of cost-cutting and understaffing by hospitals are driving nurses away from the bedside. When hospitals understaff nurses, patient care and working conditions suffer. Patients can end up waiting longer for care when nurses are stretched thin between more and more patients. The toll of being overworked, understaffed, and unsupported contributes to rising exhaustion and moral distress among nurses.
When hospitals close down facilities and units, more patients end up in hospitals where nurses are already overworked and understaffed. Now, while COVID-19 cases surge, hospitals continue to schedule nurses at minimal levels, including on a “low need” basis which allows them to send nurses home without advance notice. In addition to the wasted time and loss of pay for nurses, this leaves the hospitals further understaffed when patient levels increase during a shift.
Despite the pandemic, hospitals in Minnesota and nationally have continued to bring in growing revenues. Hospital closures and understaffing might be good for hospital bottom lines, but they are bad for patients and nurses. The COVID-19 pandemic did not create this crisis, it has only exposed the tragic consequences of the cost-cutting policies Minnesota hospitals have pursued for years.