Mayo Clinic surgical staff petition leadership over working conditions

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(ABC 6 News) – Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) delivered a petition to Mayo Clinic leadership Thursday. They’re not nurses, but a number of different workers in the surgical department at Mayo Clinic.

The concerns they have are very similar to what we’ve been hearing from so many nurses. They’re overworked and worried it is having an impact on their patients.

“Our members today have concerns that they want to address about patient safety and work safety,” said SEIU Representative Hallie Wallace.

These healthcare workers want to make it clear they have had enough.

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“The strongest reoccurring theme I saw employees face throughout my entire career was the unrealistic expectation of staff to do the work of multiple people with promise of better conditions, equipment and pay in the future,” said Niki Church.

Church worked at Mayo Clinic for more than 8 years and says she never saw conditions get any better, so she left mayo in February. She’s part of this group of past and present mayo clinic surgical workers who walked into Saint Marys Thursday with a petition demanding change.

“At best this is short sightedness that can be easily remedied, but at worst this is downright greed,” said Church.

These workers say they’re given mandated and unreasonable amounts of overtime due to staffing shortages worsened by Mayo’s push to accommodate elective surgeries.

“We are not machines, and our patients are not products on a conveyor belt,” said Sam Bright a CST at Mayo Clinic.

They say the burnout from the extra workload can lead to mistakes and put patients at risk.

“There’s a reason we are instructed on a fight to put on our own oxygen mask before we assist others. It’s because if we don’t we will all run out of air to breathe while we are busy taking care of everyone else,” said Bright.

These workers hope the petition gets the attention of mayo leadership and hopefully leads to change.

“We know they are the ones that can give us the permission and the resources to help us remedy the current situation,” said Jen Santos Norgren a SPT at Mayo Clinic.

These union workers in the surgical department at Saint Marys said they want the staffing shortages addressed and cases loads re-evaluated. They’ve given Mayo leadership a week to respond to their petition.

Below are the demands from the petition.

Patient Safety

  • Decrease elective surgeries until safe staffing levels and training have been achieved.
  • Ensure proper time between patients to clean operating rooms
  • Provide enough regularly functioning equipment to maintain the level ofpatients Mayo Clinic is bringing in.

Employee Safety

  • Cease requiring employees to work inhumane numbers of overtime hours, as this has been consistently an issue for over a year.
  • Cease requiring employees to work in job roles and departments they have no training in.
  • Provide equipment that consistently works in the way it was intended to function.
  • Better teach staff the reasoning and importance of PPE, how it should properly be worn, and how dangerous the chemicals can be when not handled properly.

Mayo Clinic Department of Surgery Chair Dr. Michael Kendrick released the following statement:

“Mayo Clinic leaders have an unwavering commitment to our staff and to providing high-quality, safe patient care. We encourage our staff to share concerns, especially those related to staff and patient safety. The concerns raised during today’s SEIU news conference have been investigated by our internal leadership team as well as by The Joint Commission. These investigations did not substantiate the union’s claim about unsafe practices.

We continue to work with our staff to identify ways we can further support them. As was acknowledged at the press conference, we have many efforts underway to jointly identify solutions, including regularly exchanging ideas through staff and leadership meetings as well as our safety and staff engagement committees. Though this is a challenging time for the healthcare industry, we remain steadfast and committed to our staff and will continue to identify solutions to current challenges.”