By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On day two of the Allina nurses strike, there are two very different versions of the impact on patient care.

Nurses say with the help of staffers on the inside they are documenting a wide range of problems. But Allina officials say the hospitals are functioning at normal capacity and with the help of 144 union nurses who have crossed the picket lines, the replacement nurses are providing excellent care.

Striking nurses say they are getting reports from inside Allina hospitals of widespread irregularities.

“We hear managers calling nurses on the strike line asking them where to find equipment,” Mat Keller, Regulatory Nursing Specialist for the Minnesota Nurses Association, said. “We have heard of patients’ catheters not being able to be placed after an hour of the replacements trying to find the right spot.”

Allina officials have a dramatically different account.

“We have heard just the opposite frankly,” Allina President and CEO Dr. Penny Wheeler said

Wheeler said some of the 144 nurses who have crossed the picket lines have praised the replacements.

“Even the nurses that were used to working in our units were very pleased as were our physicians,” she said. “We would rather have our nurses. I will reiterate that over and over again.”

Allina says they have consolidated a few treatment units because of the strike, but that they’re continuing to serve the same number of patients.

Both Allina and the striking nurses say the key issue remains Allina’s insistence that the nurses switch from their insurance plan to the Allina corporate plan — something nurses say they don’t want to do.

“I do have to pay a high premium, but I had my daughter recently and I didn’t pay anything for my hospital stay, which was great,” nurse Alexis Bakare said.

The Allina corporate plan would offer the nurses lower premiums, and it’s a plan that most Allina employees — including physicians — are on.

Allina says the current nurses’ plan will continue to become more expensive, especially in 2020 when taxes on these so-called “Cadillac plans” are scheduled to jump 40 percent.

Allina won’t give an estimate, but in a 2010 one-day strike the replacements nurses cost Allina $14 million. This is a seven-day strike, so it will likely cost quite a bit more.

Esme Murphy

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