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Minnesota Nurses Association and Allina Hospitals and Clinics Forge Emergency Preparedness Agreement

ST. PAUL, Minn., Feb. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Minnesota Nurses Association and Allina Hospitals and Clinics have negotiated a unique agreement which addresses working conditions during emergency response situations. MNA and Allina worked to develop plans to ensure adequate Registered Nurse staffing, the health and safety of nurses and other system issues in the event of a natural disaster, catastrophic event, pandemic illness or response to terrorism. In preparation for those circumstances, the agreement establishes a group of RNs who would supplement existing staff. Nurses can participate through a workable and effective voluntary process that removes barriers to involvement and fosters worker safety.

As evidenced by the bridge collapse in Minnesota in 2007, nurses and other first responders go beyond their call of duty when disaster strikes. "What is not seen, however, are the heart-wrenching tensions and potential danger facing these heroes behind the scenes," said MNA Health and Safety Specialist, Elizabeth Shogren, RN.

"An overwhelming number of employers plan to rely on mandatory overtime or involuntary schedule changes for emergency response, leading to untenable options for nurses whose own family might be subject to the same jeopardy as other citizens," said Allina RN and Chairperson of the Negotiating Committee, Marie Stuewe. In contrast, the agreement with Allina recognizes employees' legitimate concerns about safety, liability and conflicting obligations.

"We think it's important to work with our employees to make sure they're confident their families are cared for during the difficult times this agreement anticipates. That peace of mind is critical so they can do their vital work and deliver the care our patients expect from us," said Dr. Penny Wheeler, Allina's Chief Clinical Officer. "Our goal, Allina and MNA together, is to care for the people who care for our patients."

The agreement anticipates the need for adequate personal protective equipment like respirators, and attends to other issues such as worker fatigue and nursing practice delegation responsibilities. Concerns about criminal and civil actions directed against health care workers in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina led to agreement provisions that protect nurses who may be subject to investigation or legal action. Specialized training would be provided to those who agree to join the list of voluntary participants.

The agreement covers 5,000 MNA Registered Nurses employed at Allina Hospitals and Clinics. System officials estimate a significant disaster would require a day's normal operation to be bolstered by at least 2,100 RN volunteer participants.

"Nursing skills are essential to the lives exposed to unexpected tragedy," said MNA member, Robert Pandiscio, RN. "This plan frees us to do our best work under the worst possible circumstances and recognizes the unique needs of individual nurses."

Uniting nurses in vision and voice since 1905. With 20,000 members, MNA is the leading organization for registered nurses in the Midwest and is among the oldest and largest representatives of RNs for collective bargaining in the nation. MNA is a multi-purpose union that fosters high standards for nursing education and practice, and works to advance the profession through legislative activity. MNA is affiliated with the United American Nurses and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

SOURCE Minnesota Nurses Association
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