Nurses urge Fairview Health Services to reveal plans for cuts

Protesters gather in a park in downtown St. Paul.
Members of Minnesota Nurses Association and other groups gather in Mears Park in downtown St. Paul to demand transparency by M Health Fairview and HealthEast hospitals on cuts to Bethesda and St. Joseph's hospitals.
Nina Moini | MPR News

Members of the Minnesota Nurses Association fear cuts to two downtown St. Paul hospitals could have implications across the state, as a health care system considers how to cut costs to deal with an $80 million net loss this year.

Fairview Health Services has not said how many jobs and patients could be affected in the coming weeks and months at Bethesda Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Even under holiday lights and wearing red union shirts, there was nothing fun or festive about what the nurses demonstrating in St. Paul’s Mears Park had to say Thursday.

Nurses union president Mary Turner said the entire state could feel it if Fairview Health Services makes deep cuts. Turner said nurses from Mankato to Duluth have expressed concerns.

“When I said St. Joe’s may be closing some 100 psychiatric beds, their eyes went wide and they said, ‘What?’”

Sandi Anderson has worked as a nurse for 39 years, five of them at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Anderson said her cardiology unit is full most of the time.

”We have a huge unit, 45 beds, I’d say roughly the size of a football field, we get all the cardiology patients from Woodwinds, St. John’s, Bethesda,” she said.

Fairview Health Services declined interview requests for this story. In a statement, the health care nonprofit said, “We are partnering with community organizations as we move forward through our transformation. In light of the health care affordability crisis in our country, we are choosing to lead toward a solution that is more affordable, easy to navigate and rooted in the latest research and advances in medicine.”

Modestus Okorie has been a nurse at Bethesda for 17 years. Okorie said it’s been hard to watch colleagues lose jobs around the holidays.

”The physical therapy aides are gone, some social workers are gone and today the nursing assistants are receiving their letters telling them they don’t have a job,” Okorie said.

Fairview Health Services CEO James Hereford said in an interview earlier this month that he hopes a restructuring plan will be ready by early next year and that they will accept community input before making changes.

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