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Thousands of MN Nurses to Strike this Weekend

Thousands of Minnesota nurses plan to strike this Sunday over staffing shortages and what they're calling unfair changes to their health-insurance plans. (iStockphoto)
Thousands of Minnesota nurses plan to strike this Sunday over staffing shortages and what they're calling unfair changes to their health-insurance plans. (iStockphoto)
June 17, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- About 5,000 Minnesota nurses plan to strike on Sunday over hospital safety concerns and their own health insurance plans.

At issue is a plan by Minneapolis-based Allina Health to shift the nurses to the company's corporate health coverage. The nurses have argued that their out-of-pocket costs would skyrocket under the change. In previous contract talks, said registered nurse Angela Becchetti, the nurses gave up pay raises in order to keep a more affordable health plan.

"Allina's asking us to transition to their plans, but not providing the data for us to properly assess that transition," she said. "We've given up stuff in the past for this, and they're asking us to go to high out-of-pocket maximums and higher-deductible plans, and that is a concern of the nurses."

Allina said the switch would save the company about $10 million a year. Sunday's strike is expected to include nurses from Abbott Northwestern, Phillips Eye Institute, Mercy, United, and Unity hospitals.

One of the nurses' other big concerns is staffing. Becchetti described some local hospitals as chronically understaffed, which she said can put both patients and health-care workers in harm's way.

"If you have a loved one coming to the hospital, they might not get the best care," she said, "because if your nurses are dealing with another patient, or aren't able to attend to your loved one because we don't have enough resources on the floor, that's concerning."

Sunday's planned nurses' strike is one of several slated to take place over the next week. In addition to Minnesota, about 10,000 RNs plan walkouts over similar contract negotiations in Massachusetts and California.

Strike details are online at mnnurses.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN