KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Thousands Of Minnesota Nurses Strike For One Day

The Associated Press: "More than 12,000 nurses launched a one-day strike Thursday at 14 Minnesota hospitals in a dispute over nurse-patient ratios levels and pension benefits. Nurses say they are being asked to care for too many patients at a time, and strict ratios are necessary to protect patient safety. The hospitals, all in the Minneapolis area, counter that patients are safe and that the walkout is a headline-grabbing stunt to build membership and clout for a national nurses union. About the same number of nurses had planned a simultaneous strike in California over the same issues, but were blocked temporarily earlier this week by a San Francisco judge. … Hospitals hired 2,800 replacement nurses, called in extra non-unionized staff, reduced patient levels and some hospitals rescheduled elective surgeries." Staff members from two of the area's largest hospitals weren't involved in the strike (Williams, 6/10).

NPR: Gary Chaison, a professor of labor relations at Clark University in Worchester, Mass., "says nurses are becoming more militant at a time when unions in other industries are losing influence. As health care reform forces hospitals to cut costs, nurses are feeling the squeeze.'" Chaison says the striking nurses have the advantage of being well liked and respected amongst patients and he predicted other nursing strikes could follow this (Yuen, 6/10).

Minnesota Public Radio: "Hospital officials said Thursday that surgeries, childbirths and other procedures were taking place as expected at 14 Twin Cities hospitals while their nurses picketed outside. ... The hospitals and nurses union have been negotiating for weeks on a new contract. But it became clear in recent days that no progress was being made, and that the strike the union scheduled two weeks ago would happen" (Benson and Yuen, 6/10).

Minneapolis Tribune: "Late Thursday, both sides claimed to have achieved their goals on a tense and complicated day -- the hospitals treating patients with generally little disruption, the union staging a spirited and cohesive walkout that called public attention to their concerns over patient care and nurse staffing levels. No new talks are scheduled, however, leaving each side to weigh the impact of the one-day walkout and consider whether to escalate the dispute" (Brown, Marcotty and Yee, 6/11). 

Twin Cities Pioneer Press: "The dividing contract issue has been nurse staffing levels. The union wants the hospitals to abide by strict nurse-to-patient ratios as a way to ensure patient care. The hospitals want flexibility to deal with staffing issues by calling in nurses on busy days and sending them home on slow ones" (Olson, 6/10).

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