Report raises concerns about Maple Grove hospital

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The development of a new hospital in Maple Grove is threatening health services and jobs provided at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, warns a research report released Thursday.

The report was issued by Service Employees International Union Local 113, which represents 1,100 workers at North Memorial Medical Center.

North Memorial is developing the new Maple Grove hospital in partnership with Fairview Health Services, the result of a plan approved last session by the Minnesota state Legislature.

“The Maple Grove hospital cannot be built at the expense of north Minneapolis and Robbinsdale,” said Julie Schnell, president of SEIU Local 113.

Joined by other speakers at a news conference at the Urban League offices in north Minneapolis, Schnell said North Memorial has closed departments and laid off staff at the Robbinsdale facility while investing in the new Maple Grove facility.

“There are fewer people to do our jobs well,” said Kelly Mitchell, SEIU Local 113 member and a case cart aide at North Memorial. Her job involves cleaning and sterilizing instruments. “They’re making us hurry,” said Mitchell, a six-year employee at North Memorial.

“It’s very critical that North Memorial take care of its employees and this community,” said north Minneapolis resident Melvin Anderson, also a North Memorial case cart aide and SEIU Local 113 member. “A lot of people are losing out,” said Anderson, a three-year employee at North Memorial.

SEIU researcher Holly Rodin reported that North Memorial invested 91 percent of reported investments in the Robbinsdale facility from 1993-2003. But starting in 2005, she continued, North Memorial invested 93 percent of their reported capital investment in Maple Grove.

State Representative Keith Ellison, who represents north Minneapolis, said he cast a difficult vote last session in favor of the new Maple Grove facility. At legislative hearings, he said, he was told the Maple Grove hospital would enhance health care in the community. “What is happening is it is less,” said Ellison, who recently toured North Memorial with SEIU Local 113 members.

North Memorial’s shift of investments and resources from the Robbinsdale facility to the Maple Grove facility represented “medical redlining,” SEIU researcher Rodin warned.

In addition, she said, the new service area for the new Maple Grove facility takes away the most affluent communities previously served by the Robbinsdale facility and leaves the Robbinsdale facility more reliant on lower-income communities with a higher rate of uninsured patients, adding to the Robbinsdale facility’s financial burdens.

“North Memorial is playing a game of ‘risk’ with the communities of its existing hospital in Robbinsdale and its new facility in Maple Grove,” said SEIU Local 113 President Schnell.

“We need to raise these red flags and hold hospitals like North Memorial accountable,” Schnell said.

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