MANKATO -- The Minnesota Nurses Association has filed a letter of intent to picket at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.
The intent was disclosed to the Post-Bulletin on Friday. MNA executive director Jan Rabbers said the contract between nurses and the medical center in Mankato ends Sept. 30.
The union is in talks in Mankato, and with other Mayo Clinic Health System sites, but "Mankato is coming to a crossroads," Rabbers said.
Negotiations are hung up on a familiar sticking point, according to Rabbers -- patient safety.
"The nurses are really concerned," Rabbers said.
Three-week staffing schedules get posted with "200 holes," she said, meaning she doesn't believe there are enough nurses working at the facility to fill the hospital's nurse-to-patient staffing-ratio guidelines.
"They're scrambling to get nurses," said Rabbers. "It's very concerning and the nurses are working lots of double shifts and they're fatigued and it's just not been the standard-of-care that they've been used to in Mankato."
Mayo Clinic spokesman Bryan Anderson, though, offered a starkly different view.
"At Mayo Clinic nurse staffing is based on the individual care needs of our patients," Anderson said. "Our model of staffing has proven to be successful in providing high-quality nursing care, enhanced patient satisfaction and nursing staff satisfaction without state-mandated ratios that do not consider the individual needs of patients."
Anderson said Mayo feels strongly "that nurse-staffing decisions are best made at the bedside by our nursing staff who know firsthand the needs of our patients."
Rabbers hinted at more to come from the nurses association.
"We're always open to having nurses give us a call," she said, noting that the MNA does not disclose when nurses are actively working to organize unions at health facilities.
Will more southeast Minnesota nurses unionize over the next few years?
"We always hope so," Rabbers said. "That's our mission. We believe that nurses do better and patients do better -- and there is evidence that patients do better -- in unionized hospitals."
Health reporter Jeff Hansel writes the Pulse on Health column every Monday. Follow him on Twitter @JeffHansel. ___Copyright 2014 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.