Essentia Health expanding across upper Midwest, looking at Wisconsin
(WSAW) - As Essentia Health and Marshfield Clinic Health System formally begin talks about possibly merging together, Essentia is continuing to expand its reach throughout the region.
In addition to its stated mission of providing the highest quality health care, it also aims to grow. Featured in Vanguard, Essentia’s chief legal officer and general counsel, Mike Watters told the legal magazine he was brought on the team in 2019 with the goal to help the medical system expand its footprint to the upper Midwest.
At the beginning of October, Mid Dakota Clinics changed its name to Essentia after finalizing an acquisition in mid-September. The deal from formal discussions through the announcement took three months. The president of West Essentia told KFYR it plans to expand staff to meet the growing needs of that area. Mid Dakota Clinic doctors expressed optimism.
”It will provide a lot more resources for us to bring into the community,” Radiologist Dr. Andrew Wilder and President and board chair of Mid Dakota Clinic said. “So, I think overall the physicians are very excited about the possibilities moving forward.”
Leading up to that announcement, Essentia disclosed it had received notice from the Minnesota Nurses Association that Essentia nurses planned to strike for three days at hospitals in Duluth and Moose Lake, Minn. and Superior, Wis. According to MNA’s press release the nurses, including those from other health systems in the state, were striking for “fair contracts.”
“Corporate healthcare policies in our hospitals have left nurses understaffed and overworked, while patients are overcharged, local hospitals and services are closed, and executives take home million-dollar paychecks,” said Chris Rubesch, RN at Essentia in Duluth and Vice President of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Nurses have one priority in our hospitals, to take care of our patients, and we are determined to fight for fair contracts so nurses can stay at the bedside to provide the quality care our patients deserve.”
The release went on to list the earnings of hospital executives and laid out the union’s version of events as it pertains to negotiations.
In response to the announcement of the strikes, Essentia jointly with other hospital systems in Minnesota said they were “disappointed.” It mentioned the 32.5% wage increase over three years, calling it not sustainable on top of other benefits it offered. It also mentioned that the hospitals “have repeatedly requested mediation, which the union has consistently declined.”
In the statement, Essentia noted it and the other health systems filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board.
“The MNA failed to give the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services a required notice. It is our hope that by filing this charge we can return our focus to the bargaining table; we must exhaust every option to avoid a work stoppage. That is why we took this step,” the statement read. “We respect the MNA’s right to call a legal strike. But they have not done so in this case, and we have a responsibility to provide patient care without disruption.”
Essentia also tried to acquire CommonSpirit Health last year too, but the deal fell through. MNA got hundreds of members’ signatures on a petition stating concerns about the merger. In a joint statement, the two health systems said despite shared values they “were unable to come to an agreement that would serve the best interests of both organizations, the people we employ and the patients we serve.”
In Wednesday’s announcement with Marshfield Clinic, both systems stated they were positive and excited about the opportunity to expand what they called their mission-driven approach to health care to help more rural communities. Together, they would have 150 sites serving more than two million people.
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