Nurses fear Children’s restructuring will leave some without care

Forty sets of scrubs and 26 photos of hospital beds represent the nurses reassigned and services cut at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul.

Pediatric nurses held informational picketing outside Children’s Hospital campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul yesterday, raising public awareness about their fight for enough staffing and beds for patients at the facilities.

Although they have raised those concerns with management repeatedly, members of the Minnesota Nurses Association said, the situation continues to worsen as the hospitals push forward with a system-wide restructuring plan.

Sydney Pederson, a nurse at Children’s St. Paul and leader in the bargaining unit, said frustrations boiled over when more patients began seeking care at the hospital, as more schools and other youth programs resumed in person.

“We have been asking for months and months for them to consider what was going to happen when we got to this point, and they have failed to make decisive, timely decisions as to how to accommodate when the patients came back,” Pederson said.

“We felt we needed to bring our nurses out to the street to show them that we feel the urgency inside the hospital, facing the families and patients that we don’t have rooms for, don’t have resources for. Hopefully, they will listen.”

Unveiled before the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Children’s restructuring plan would shift most critical-care services to Minneapolis and downsize the St. Paul hospital, leaving it to handle more outpatient care. During the pandemic, Children’s moved to speed up the process.

The result has been bad for patients and staff alike, and nurses at both facilities are taking notice.

“Children’s is taking away services from the sickest kids served in the St. Paul hospital while placing more of a burden on the already strapped resources of the Minneapolis campus,” Children’s Minneapolis nurse Tricia Ryshkus said. “And now what’s happening is kids are waiting for care, and it’s increasing health inequities for all of these kids.”

On the picket line in St. Paul, nurses hung 40 sets of hospital scrubs on a makeshift clothesline, representing nurses the hospital has reassigned or lost since the restructuring began. They also strung photos of 26 vacant hospital beds to represent the hospital’s lost capacity for serving the community.

Nurses also called out Children’s for being slow to respond to a rise in adolescent patients seeking critical mental-health services.

Nurses at both hospitals have been let go during the restructuring, according to MNA, which says the situation has left both hospital campuses critically short-staffed and without enough beds to admit patients.

“It’s a huge concern for a community that relies on us, knowing we don’t have the beds or the staff resources to take care of them and provide the high level of care that Children’s has always been known for and that we are very proud to provide,” Pederson said. “It’s a failure to plan, and it’s a choice.”

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