Unions unite over unsafe working conditions

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Employees at Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center (AMRTC) are tired of worrying if they’ll make it home safe from work because the hospital does not have needed security to prevent violence by patients and others. 

MAPE, Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) banded together at an informational picket Wednesday outside the AMRTC facility, which is run by the Department of Human Services (DHS), to draw attention to safety concerns on site after a nurse was recently attacked at work. The hospital has been without security since management terminated its relationship with the Anoka Police Department last year.

“Security should not be optional,” said MAPE member Jennell Pettit. "Staff did not have a say in the termination of services from the Anoka Police, but now we just have to live with it.”

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More than 50 employees represented by all three unions and other supportive organizations carried signs calling for safety during the picket. Staff talked openly about how stressful it is to come to work every day not knowing if today is the day you might be the one assaulted by a violent patient.

"That attack shows just how dangerous the working conditions are at AMRTC," Carrie Mortrud, RN, said. "A nurse was severely injured and hospitalized for several days. Staff has been asking for more security for over a year, but the hospital has dismissed our valid, substantiated concerns and professional recommendations."

Staff have repeatedly pushed for safety improvements with little action by management. A request for the addition of safety plexiglass around an especially vulnerable nurses’ station took more than a year for installation.

“What staff experience at AMRTC would be considered assaults outside our walls in the community,” Pettit said. “Having no security and not having enough staff puts all visitors, clients and staff at risk every time we go on the units or in are hallways.”

DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey met with staff and union leaders earlier this week to hear their safety concerns.

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