Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Nurses speak up on hospital deal


December 5, 2019

The nurses of Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake made themselves heard at the most recent meeting of the hospital board on November 25.

During the time for public comment, nurses from various departments of the hospital voiced their concerns over what might happen to the services they provide if the hospital joins with Essentia Health.

Nancy Hoffman, who’s been an employee with Mercy for almost 42 years, spoke on behalf of the home care nurses. “Mercy Home Health was established about 22 years ago at the hospital and we have evolved to a much needed and filled department to provide service in our patients’ homes in our surrounding hospital district. Our ultimate goal is to assist the patients with keeping them in their homes safely.”

About 40 employees currently make up the home care department.

Hoffman stressed the importance of the service they provide. “Imagine if any of you were to check out your mother from the hospital, and you get a long list of complicated medications, medical tasks, having no knowledge how to give those injections, how to administer IVs in the home—which we do—or how to do even necessary wound care or management of wound care vacuums.”

In her experience, Hoffman stated one of the most common life-threatening situations she’s observed is the mismanagement of home medications which lands patients back in the hospital. Home care services are meant to remedy those situations.

“Before handing those keys over to Essentia, just remember the home care needs of our hospital district,” said Hoffman.

Another nurse, Sadie Cross, who has worked in various departments, spoke in regards to OB services (childbirth and delivery).

“I’m speaking on behalf of myself and many of the staff of the Rhonda Kay Skelton Birthing Center. I think it’s just so important to keep the namesake and the vision of Rhonda when we provide care to our mothers and our babies. Critical access hospitals have eliminated OB services across the state. Some of them are Sandstone, Ely, Cook, Grand Marais, and Albert Lea.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 700 residents of Carlton and Pine County gave birth in 2017.

“It would be such a disservice to our community if [those services] were ever considered to not be part of this hospital in the future. I hope that when the hospital board and administration is considering this change and how it’s going to happen, that they don’t just think in terms of dollars and cents, but in common sense, that all rural Minnesotans deserve equal access to healthcare across their lifespan. And that is what our nurses are 100% dedicated to.”

Marissa Beck, an RN at Mercy and co-chair of the union, spoke on behalf of the 60+ nurses at Mercy. “We are looking for, first and foremost, transparency during this affiliation process. We are grateful for the open forums that have been conducted by our CEO, but our formal requests for information have largely gone unanswered.”

Beck also expressed concerns over the union being recognized and the nurses’ contracts to be honored. “We ask that you, the hospital district board, make recognition of our union and recognition of our contracts a condition of the affiliation with Essentia Health. We have been asking for this since mid-September of 2019 and have not received an answer.”

President Mary Turner of the Minnesota Nurses Association, was the last to speak during the open forum portion of the meeting. “I represent close to 23,000 nurses over a four-state area. So I represent these nurses in this hospital and one of my main jobs is to help look out for their interests. But not only the nurses’ interests but also the patients that they serve.

Turner went on to reiterate the concerns the nurses had already expressed about discontinuing services, especially in this rural area. She gave a timely example of a pregnant woman during a snowstorm such as the one we recently experienced that shut down travel.

“Just picture being a laboring mom. You’re in labor and you have to worry about getting sixty miles away to have your baby. And it’s snowing, and the roads are closed. That’s the people down in Albert Lea right now.”

The issue of transparency was again cited as an issue and potential conflicts of interest concerning the business deal. Turner stated she wants to make sure that the process is done right and that the community benefits.

“You have a fantastic hospital,” said Turner. “I’ve been able to tour it in the past. You have a fantastic community. We just want to make sure that you’re doing right by the community, the patients, and our nurses.”

The tentative date for the potential merger is set for June 30, 2020.

In other business, Robert Johnson gave an update on the renovation of the pharmacy which is being done to bring their workspace into compliance with the latest regulation updates. The renovation is expected to be completed in mid to late June of 2020.

The board also approved a motion to update their policy concerning investing in stock, changing the amount invested to between 0–35%. This change was made so all stock could be liquidated and put into bonds as a precursor to the potential merger.


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