The shameful disparity between the exorbitant salaries of upper management in Minnesotan hospitals and those afforded to our nurses highlights a critical disconnect between leadership and the very backbone on which these hospitals depend ("Nurses go on strike at Twin Cities, Duluth area hospitals," StarTribune.com, Sept. 12).
Recent years have seen hospital CEOs and executives enjoying remuneration running into an eye-watering seven figures, no less. Our nurses, on the other hand, continue to face dire financial struggles on below-par wages that have not kept up with inflation levels. Many live paycheck to paycheck and face a real struggle of keeping their home fires burning.
Indeed, it is ironic that hospital leaders are quite willing to pay replacement nurses considerably higher salaries (which include accommodation and travel expenses) than what their present staff receives. Conversely, these very leaders are notably unwilling to ease the burden of their dedicated staff. Countless requests from our nurses to address chronic nursing staff shortages and improve management issues for a safer workplace have simply gone unheeded. Consequently, nurses continue to work strenuous, long hours with overtime and are required to look after more patients than they should, even those with higher acuity. This impacts safety and quality care for their patients.
No wonder there is such burnout among Minnesota's nurses. No wonder so many have left, exhausted and demoralized, because they can no longer give their patients the same high standard of care that is in their makeup to give.
One is left really questioning the true position of these hospital leaders. Exactly where — and with whom — does their loyalty lie?
Our nurses represent beacons of light and pillars of support to the thousands upon thousands of patients of all ages and all afflictions. They are one of the cardinal essentials that make it possible for many of us to look forward to another day.
Our nurses deserve our voice, and our support.
Julia Sursok, Eden Prairie
Some 15,000 nurses from 15 hospitals have planned a three-day strike this week until Thursday. To be honest, it's not hard for most middle-class Minnesotans to understand why. A few months ago, a Star Tribune article ("What happened to those 2020 pay cuts? Final CEO pay numbers mixed in Minnesota") reported that CEO annual compensation for six of these representative health systems (Essentia Health, Fairview Health Services, Allina Health System, HealthPartners, North Memorial and Children's Minnesota) remained in the seven figures, ranging (as mentioned above, and in reverse order) from $1.4 to $2.8 million (Essentia Health CEO, the highest).
If you can, set aside the money. Ask about CEO working conditions. When was the last time any top Minnesota hospital administrator had to bargain away something in order not to have health care or retirement benefits diminished, or worked 10-12 hours rarely sitting down and with minimal bathroom breaks, or faced a "no-pay" shift-cut with four hours' notice, or worked in daily fear of ever-increasing patient violence, or experienced months of COVID burnout and cried helplessly for someone's cherished someone who died alone? When was the last time?
I'm not a nurse. I've never cleaned a bedpan. But I do understand why four hospital systems (Children's Minnesota, M Health Fairview, Methodist Hospital and North Memorial Health), feeling threatened, have combined their respective power structures to create an even huger group of their own, Twin Cities Hospital Group, hoping to bully these "little guys," workers who dare to dream, all of whom deserve their very own nightlight under the stars. What Minnesotan, no matter their class, doesn't remember the last time they were in extreme physical pain and/or mental distress, and who was there helping them struggle out of bed, walking their IV unit down the hall, bringing two extra glasses of ice water? Chances are, there wasn't a CEO in sight!
Judith Monson, St. Paul
I have a vested interest in the nurses' strike, since I have a scheduled surgery during these three days and have been waiting for three months for it.
I also worked as a registered nurse for 37 years at one of the affected hospitals and experienced a long strike in 1984.
Despite that, I don't feel like a strike is the way to solve the demands of the nurses. They want a 30% salary increase over three years. That's unreasonable in my opinion. I'm no apologist for management, but hospitals have certainly suffered in recent years because of the effects of the pandemic. Increasing the salary to that unreasonable degree will only hurt staffing levels when hospitals can't afford to hire more nurses. Clearly, nursing curriculum doesn't include any finance education.
Please don't use this strike as a showpiece for union activism. The Minnesota Nurses Association proudly proclaims this as the largest nurses' strike in U.S. history. It's patient abandonment, unprofessional and foolish.
Beth Swanberg, Bloomington
We hear that there are nursing staff shortages every time a nursing contract expires. What is happening in our health care system? We pay our health care premiums expecting to get care when we need it, but you should know that if we maintain the current structure, this may not always be the case.
Last month I was hospitalized in an ICU and told I needed to be transferred by ambulance to a bigger hospital. A few hours later I was told that there wasn't a bed available in the state. Of course, there were beds, and there were doctors, but there weren't any nurses to care for me. There are many reasons why there aren't any nurses, but the looming retirement issue is a big one.
On Aug. 12, the Star Tribune ran the article "Medtronic workers offered free tuition" which mentioned companies that offered employees some sort of college tuition assistance. I did not see one health insurance company, hospital or medical professional organization listed. Dr. Sally Saba, Medtronic's chief inclusion and diversity officer, was quoted as saying, "A bigger and more substantial role not only can but must be played by corporate America in order to really solve the enduring systemic inequities in our communities."
Well, corporate America, the nursing shortage needs to be on the top of your list. Perhaps Saba can help you see how it can be done — because nurses care for everybody. Even if you are a CEO or a billionaire, someday you may find there is not room for you either because there were no nurses to take care of you.
Patricia Sundberg, Isanti, Minn.
Anyone seeking medical care during the strike should proceed with caution. For anyone to believe that the replacement nurses are here because they care about patient care and safety, think again. They are here for the money. David Joos, president of Allina's Abbott Northwestern Hospital, believes and stated that "These are very seasoned nurses." Not sure how he can say that or know that. The public needs to know that Minnesota nurses are going on strike for patients. Yes, we need and want better wages, the reason being, we want to maintain committed nurses to stay at the bedside to care for you.
Anyone who believes in the profession of nursing knows you don't go into nursing for the paycheck. We nurses have chosen nursing because we care and we have a passion. During my 36 years, I have had the privilege of seeing miracles, and I have held patients' hands while they have died and told them they are safe. I have lost track of the number of funerals I have attended to honor my patients and their families. No, I did not do it for the money.
Jeanne Kenady, St. Louis Park