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Associated Press, Published June 11 2010

12,000 Minn. nurses launch 1-day walkout

MINNEAPOLIS – More than 12,000 nurses walked off the job Thursday for a one-day strike at 14 Minnesota hospitals, a show of force being watched by many across the country as a test of how fiercely a new national nurses union can flex its muscle.

Nurses say they are being asked to care for too many patients at a time, and strict ratios are necessary to protect patient safety. The hospitals, all in the Minneapolis area, counter that patients are safe and that the walkout is a headline-grabbing stunt to build membership and clout for the fledgling union.

Though called the largest nurses’ strike in U.S. history by both the union and the hospitals, the effects were minimal. But they came at a cost: Hospitals hired 2,800 replacement nurses, called in extra non-unionized staff, reduced patient levels and some hospitals rescheduled elective surgeries.

Dr. Penny Wheeler, chief clinical officer at Allina Hospitals and Clinics, said there were no reports of problems at any of the 14 hospitals. Wheeler said those hospitals would begin recalling their regular nurses today.

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