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'What Is Going On Here?': M Health Fairview Cuts At St. Paul Hospitals Alarming Staff, Community

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Health care could soon become harder to find in the Twin Cities.

Because of budget issues, M Health Fairview has already started cutting down the number of beds and staff at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul.

There are also rumors St. Joseph's Hospital could close entirely.

Tuesday night, dozens of people gathered for a forum at Christ on Capitol Hill Lutheran Church to discuss the potential changes that could impact staff, patients, and the community they serve. One of the attendees was Minnesota Nurses Association President Mary Turner.

"Let's be honest, what is going on here?" Turner said.

Many who were there were nurses at M Health Fairview facilities.

"We need to take a stand. Who's going to stand? Who's going to say something?" a nurse from Bethesda said.

Some were former patients or family members of patients.

"We need St. Joe's and Bethesda. I walked every inch of that hospital when my mother was ill. I know every step, every floor, nurses … all the people that helped my mother live for six years," another attendee said.

Stella Obadioya is an RN at Bethesda Hospital, where staff cuts have already happened, as the facility reduces its number of beds. She hopes her 18 years at the hospital is enough seniority for her to keep her job or get transferred to another facility. But she's not only worried about herself.

READ MORE: Nurses, Doctors Protest In St. Paul Over Potential Closure Of 2 Fairview Hospitals

"Health care as we know it in St. Paul is in danger," Obadioya said. "All [M Health Fairview leadership] has said is, 'We are going to still have LTACH [Long Term Acute Care Hospital] in the system.' They never said, 'We are going to still have LTAC at Bethesda.'"

Melanie Timpano was one of the panelists. She is a RN St. Joseph's Hospital, where rumors of a closure are swirling.

"I just think that morale is really low right now and it would really help if we had some transparency to the process," Timpano said. "I think people just need to know should I be looking for a new job."

A Fairview Health Services spokesperson said any changes at Bethesda will not affect patients currently getting care -- just how many patients they can treat. They will "continue to serve LTACH patients from within our system and will accept patients from outside our system if they meet LTACH criteria, as capacity allows."

On his LinkedIn page, CEO James Hereford wrote in part:

Over the past few weeks, we had more than 100 meetings with various groups and stakeholders. And we are not done talking with patients, employees, community groups, and government officials, and incorporating their feedback and solutions into our initiatives. Our plan is to then return to the community and share our solutions they helped us create.

It's a conversation the group is eager to have, with a former St. Joseph's patient saying, "They helped save my life, so I am really dedicated to the survival of that institution because they provide quality care."

Fairview Health Services released an additional statement:

We appreciate the community sharing their thoughts about how we work together to create solutions. Nationwide, healthcare is facing an affordability crisis; for far too long, rising healthcare costs have been passed on to patients and their families. Fairview is taking a proactive lead in thinking differently about how it delivers high-quality care that is affordable and accessible, which means we have to transform. We are looking carefully at the programs we offer all our patients to ensure we are providing the best care in the most effective ways, including our Recovery Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, which has consistently experienced extremely low patient volumes over the past several years. Combining the Recovery Services Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program with our Lodging Plus program is both a clinically effective and sustainable way for us to offer this service.

We are aware of concerns surrounding St. Joseph's and Bethesda's, and the desire to collaborate on how to best serve St. Paul's mental health needs. We are proud Fairview meets so many important needs in the community. It is a commitment we are not walking away from.

Anyone wishing to leave feedback on the potential changes across M Health Fairview can fill out a form by clicking here.

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