Nurses expected to picket Sanford policies in Bemidji

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 8:41 AM CDT
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The Minnesota Nurses Association says it plans to picket in Bemidji protesting what it calls retaliation by Sanford Bemidji Medical Center against workers who have tried to protect themselves from COVID-19.

The protest is happening from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Paul Bunyan Park. The association says it isn't just for nurses or members, rather all healthcare workers.

The group says the protest is in regards to an RN who was disciplined by management for trying to arrange alternative housing for healthcare workers to quarantine themselves.

Sanford Health Bemidji tells Valley News Live not one COVID-19 patient has been admitted to the hospital there.

The union says the hospital told nurses in Bemidji they could stay at a hotel, at their own expense, which some say they can't afford.

The Nurses Association says it wants a more affordable option arranged by the hospital.

The Association also points out no workers on the clock will go to the protest and patient care will not be affected.

Joy Johnson, Vice President of Operations for Sanford Bemidji released the below statement:

“Every three years, Sanford Health in Bemidji and the Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) labor union negotiate a new contract for union members covered by MNA. Currently we are in the collective bargaining process and we are committed to continuing and look forward to achieving mutual agreement.

It is very important to remember that Sanford Bemidji Medical Center has yet to provide care in the hospital or ER to a COVID-19 positive patient.

Sanford has also been the only major health system in Minnesota who has not laid off any employees (including nurses) during the state ordered shut down. Instead, we paid union and non-union staff to cross train in other areas of care, as well as perform alternate work tasks. During this same time, Sanford has covered the full premium cost of health insurance through June and given cash bonuses to all hourly staff, including our union employees. This unprecedented decision to provide special compensation to union employees was done because we believe that all employees are an integral part of our valued Sanford family.

Even though we have had no COVID-19 positive patients at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center, we have used the past few months to prepare for a potential surge. These preparations include re-purposing space on the 4th floor of the medical center for a Special Care Unit for COVID-19 patients and developing several procedures to keep staff safe, including hospital-provided and laundered scrubs for those work on the special care unit, locker rooms for staff who choose to change and shower at work after shifts and if desired, access to temporary housing options at a reduced rate for employees.

At Sanford Health, we are following the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) usage guidelines developed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health and have continued to expand our protection of both employees and patients as guidance and resources have evolved. During this time, every Sanford employee has been protected by the PPE recommended by CDC when caring for patients, despite the fact that we have had no COVID-19 positive cases in our region’s medical centers.

While we are disappointed with the Minnesota Nurses Association, we are grateful and proud of the work all of our staff have done to inspire teamwork, trust and respect during this pandemic—proving a sincere dedication to the care and safety of all our patients and staff.”

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