The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA), a left-wing union that supports universal health care, said its members are divided on the issue of mandatory COVID vaccines and recommended that hospital vaccination programs be voluntary.
Their recommendation stems from the results of an internal survey asking MNA members about their stances on a vaccine mandate. A press release says the survey yielded a “wide variety” of responses — so wide that the MNA Board of Directors refuses to support mandates and has endorsed voluntary programs instead.
In their Thursday statement, the MNA Board also expressed their belief that mandatory COVID vaccines will only “exacerbate” the chronic issue of short-staffed hospitals, which they claim is a “deliberate” measure to cut costs.
“We question the timing of the impending vaccine mandates and believe these mandates will continue to exacerbate staffing shortages,” they said.
The MNA Board called for adequate staffing, paid COVID leave, and the maintenance or improvement of infection-control measures to provide better care and lighten the physical and mental load on understaffed and overworked nurses. Such infection control measures include high-quality personal protective equipment, rapid testing and results, contact tracing, and environmental controls.
“We believe that hospitals and other health care institutions have a responsibility to provide all these measures to keep both workers and patients safe,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, hospitals across our state and country have abandoned that responsibility in lieu of cost cutting measures that have left our facilities unprepared for the current crisis we are facing.”
“It’s time for our health care system to get back to healing the patient and upholding their responsibility to workers.”
Increasing numbers of hospitals throughout Minnesota have implemented mandatory COVID vaccines after the FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine in August. As of early September, all workers in nine Minnesota hospital and health care systems are required to get vaccinated, except in instances where medical or religious exemptions are approved.
Similar to hospital nurses, Minnesota nursing home staff have previously expressed their own worries that a vaccine mandate will exacerbate chronic staffing issues. In August, President Joe Biden said nursing homes that do not require COVID vaccinations will not receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
The president announced a vaccine mandate last week that forces all businesses with at least 100 employees to require the vaccine or weekly testing. Businesses that do not comply are threatened with thousands of dollars in fines.
Gov. Tim Walz called the sweeping mandate on an estimated 100 million workers “the right move.”