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Essentia, Moose Lake’s Mercy Hospital finalize partnership

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MOOSE LAKE, MN -- Essentia Health announced Monday that it has finalized plans for a partnership with Moose Lake's Mercy Hospital.

According to Essentia spokespeople, Mercy Hospital's Board of Directors recently voted to approve the affiliation.

Essentia is expected to assume operations at Mercy Hospital starting in early August.

Last fall, Mercy Hospital issued a request for proposal to several health care providers, seeking a formal partnership "to bring greater stability and resources to the community."

"Board members chose Essentia, citing its strongly aligned mission and values and Essentia’s plan to grow primary and specialty care services in Moose Lake, along with hospital and emergency care," Essentia spokespeople wrote.

Integration teams from Mercy Hospital and Essentia Health have been meeting twice monthly since December 2019 to analyze the relationship in greater detail.

“This rapidly evolving health care landscape requires new partnerships and strategic planning so that the needs of the communities we are privileged to serve can continue to be met,” said Mercy CEO Mike Youso. “Our patients will benefit from personalized primary care services to advanced specialty care, all connected by a robust electronic health record that follows them anywhere in our organization.”

There was no immediate word on the impact on Mercy Hospital employees or the larbor contracts currently in place at the hospital.

However, the Minnesota Nurses Association shared a statement with CBS 3 citing some concerns about what the future will hold for Mercy Hospital employees:

“The Mercy Hospital Board of Directors voted on Monday May 19, 2020 to finalize their affiliation with Essentia.  When the Union learned about this possibility we started asking questions.  On September 19, 2019 we requested among other things a confirmation that our contract would be recognized by a successor corporation.  To date that response has gone unanswered by Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake and Essentia Health in Duluth.  We made appeals at Mercy Hospital Board Meetings on November 25, 2019 and February 24, 2020.  Both of which went unanswered.

Now the employer has told MNA nurses in multiple meetings that they intend to change their conditions of employment and require all of them to rebid on new positions.  Management has changed the terms of employment to reduce retirement contributions; implement a PTO plan, rather than utilize sick time benefits; and take back any accrued sick time hours MNA members have earned.  This is a violation of the negotiated benefits in the nurses’ contract with the employer, which Essentia has chosen to ignore.  It’s shameful that Essentia would take a knife and slash the workers’ contracts for its new employees during a pandemic when all healthcare workers are so essential to caring for the patients in this community.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Briggs LeSavage

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