MANKATO — Funding announced by Governor Tim Walz will bring more nurses to Minnesota hospitals dealing with omicron-fueled COVID-19 surges.
The $40 million in US bailout funding is intended to cover 60-hour work weeks for traveling nurses over a 60-day period.
More than 200 traveling nurses or respiratory therapists are preparing to perform at facilities across the state, including five coming to Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, said Eric Weller, coordinator of the South Central Healthcare Coalition.
“Hopefully by the end of this week the majority of nurses will be at the various sites,” he said. “They come from all over, and it’s orientation week.”
The idea of the funding will be to increase the capacity of large tertiary hospitals, most of which are in the Twin Cities metro. When there is enough space and staff, tertiary hospitals can accommodate patients requiring higher levels of care in smaller facilities.
“The goal for Mankato would be that they could take some of these higher acuity patients from other hospitals,” Weller said. “Most hospitals, larger hospitals, are operating at quite a low capacity.”
The Mayo Clinic has been working with the state on how best to use resources, according to a statement from the health care provider.
“Hospitals continue to deal with high patient volumes as the pandemic increases, and we appreciate the support of our staff,” the Mayo Clinic said. “Along with other providers, Mayo Clinic continues to work with the state to provide the information needed to deploy these additional resources quickly and efficiently.”
The 60-day staff increases could cover the duration and consequences of the current omicron push. South-central Minnesota remains on the rise of a wave, but omicron’s trajectory has fallen sharply in other locations in the weeks following strong increases.
In response to the staffing crisis, a petition from 672 members of the Minnesota Nurses Association called on hospital management at six Mayo Clinic Health System facilities, including Mankato, to take steps to reduce it while acknowledging the sacrifices made by nurses throughout the pandemic.
More than 70% of union members at Mayo facilities in Mankato, Fairmont, Albert Lea, Austin, Red Wing and Lake City have signed the petition. It calls for union nurses to be paid triple for all hours worked while traveling nurses are used, plus a $4,000 bonus to be paid every three months the nurses stay on the job.
“Nurses continue to work in extremely difficult circumstances to care for our patients while Mayo CEOs earn millions through our hard work,” Kelly Rosevold, registered nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, said in a statement. “As nurses continue to deal with a pandemic, a seemingly unsafe work environment and unresponsive management, these requests will help support nurses who provide quality patient care at the bedside.”
State health officials closely monitored hospitalization levels during the omicron wave. Omicron’s higher transmissibility still causes hospitalizations, disproportionately among unvaccinated Minnesotans, despite data showing it is less lethal than the previously dominant delta variant.
With hospitals struggling with seasonal flu, other respiratory illnesses, and hospitalizations for other causes, the added serious cases of COVID-19 are an unnecessary additional burden on the system. Elective surgeries are being evaluated statewide because few inpatient beds are available, Weller said.
In Walz’s announcement last week, Minnesota Hospital Association CEO Rahul Koranne confirmed that surgeries were being canceled due to very limited care capabilities statewide.
While St. Peter’s River’s Edge Hospital was disregarding temporary workers, experiment director Stephanie Holden called the funding a “tremendous help for hospitals across the state in need.” “.
The decision came down to thinking that other hospitals needed more support, she said.
“We’ve been lucky at River’s Edge because we’re caring for patients with COVID-19, but maybe not the numbers we’ve seen elsewhere in the state,” Holden said.
The hospital is always in need of staff for emergency services and housekeeping. The latter, however, is more related to growing up in the hospital than to COVID-19, Holden said.
Walz’s announcement also included encouragement for Minnesotans to do their part to support hospitals and the frontline workers who employ them.
“Minnesotans also have an important role to play in supporting our hospitals,” he said. “The best thing they can do to protect themselves and their families and support our frontline workers is to get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested, wear a mask inside and stay. home when they are sick.
Vaccinated people have significantly lower rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths than unvaccinated people. About 64% of Minnesotans have completed their round of vaccines in the state’s latest data update.
The COVID-19 vaccination rate in south-central Minnesota has long been below the state average. Blue Earth and Nicollet counties, which have two of the highest rates in the nine-county area, have about 59.5% and 63.6% of their populations, respectively, with a series of vaccines completed.