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Thousands of Minnesota Nurses Strike Twin Cities Hospitals

by Thomas Lee

Donning bright red union t-shirts and waving "We care for you" signs, 12,000 Minnesota nurses walked off the job Thursday.

Unable to reach a contract with six metro hospital chains, the Minnesota Nurses Association launched a 24 hour strike, the largest in the history of the United States.

Nurses are seeking a three percent annual pay raise and protection of their pension plan. But the real issue dividing nurses and hospitals is the union's demand to set a maximum number of patients each nurse can see.

The union says a strict patient-to-nurse ratio will protect patient safety. Hospitals argue tough economic times requires flexibility in staffing schedules.

Picket lines sprung up at hospitals across the Twin Cities, including Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Unity Hospital in St. Paul, and Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park.

"Everything is calm right now," said Gloria O'Connell, a spokeswoman for Allina Hospitals & Clinics.

Hospital officials report reduced volume throughout the day as they rescheduled surgeries and diverted patients to other medical facilities. Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis reported a 10 to 15 percent rise in patient admissions. The hospitals have hired about 2,800 temporary replacement nurses.

Nurses say they will return to work Friday morning.


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