Essentia Health shows community new hospital as nurses, steelworkers picket

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The public finally got to see the $900-million reinvented St. Mary’s Medical Center today. On the street, however, marched steelworkers, MNA nurses, and other medical professionals.

The state of the art building features technology that what Mayor Emily Larson says is “a game changer for our economy.” Inside, the goal is to make patients feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible during their or their family members stay.

Each floor has a different theme based on one of Duluth’s famous landmarks. Split Rock Lighthouse and Jay Cooke State Park are among those featured. Webcams installed in birthing suites will serve to give families who can’t make it a chance to see their new loved one.

Meanwhile, picketers holding an informational gathering shared that they are picketing for Essentia to not raise the number of patients they care for each shift.

First Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association Chris Rubesch says, “it’s going to represent a roughly 20% cut in the day to day number of nurses that are scheduled. What that means is that for a nurse working on that unit, they’re going to have roughly 10 minutes and 30 seconds per hour with every patient.” He says that stretching people way too thin.

Rubesch also says, “I just want the public to know that we’re going to keep advocating for patient safety and for nurses to be able to do their job safely. I want them to know that we’re also here supporting the United Steelworkers. We absolutely depend on them to do our jobs. They’re critical to the health care team, we’re happy to be out here with them.”

One new nurse mentioned that they sometimes show up and have seven patients already, and with the increased ratio Essentia is proposing, this would only be worse.

Union President Tuan Vu says “We’re here for our negotiations right now, trying to get a new contract that expired on July 1st. We have a 14 day extension, but we’re here to get a contract that’s mutually beneficial for the employer and the employee.”

Essentia Health Officials responded by saying they are confident they have the staffing they need for good patient care. They also said they respect the MNA nurses decision to hold an information picket regarding their concerns.