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North Shore Health Board of Directors Speaks About Key Issues
Cook County Communications
/ Categories: News Minnesota, Health News

North Shore Health Board of Directors Speaks About Key Issues

the staffing crisis at North Shore Health and how that impacts the facility’s financial status.

GRAND MARAIS, MINNESOTA ~~~~~  November 8, 2022 (LSNews)  The North Shore Health (NSH) Board of Directors would like to address the Cook County community on key issues: their roles as board members, the staffing crisis at North Shore Health and how that impacts the facility’s financial status.

The staffing crisis at North Shore Health is a topic of frequent discussion and the board wants the community to know that they hear your concerns. “This community deserves to hear from the board in a factual manner,” said Kay Olson, Chairperson District 4. “It is a complex issue, and we are not alone in this. Our plight is shared by healthcare services throughout the state. We are concerned as well.”

“As board members, we have two primary roles,” said Steve Nielsen, District 3 Board member. “The first of those is our governance and fiduciary responsibility. In that role we act as the hospital’s governing body, guiding long-term goals and policies, and assisting with strategic planning and decision-making. We offer effective oversight to ensure that NSH continues to provide the highest level of patient care and that the interests of our community are being met. Our second role is as elected representatives of the community. Cook County residents can reach out to us directly with concerns, comments, complaints or suggestions. Expressing issues directly is a positive way to influence change. Plus, there is a great deal of valuable information on the new NSH website:”

Rural hospitals throughout Minnesota are experiencing a staffing and financial crisis. The shortage of healthcare workers is magnified by the fact that the Baby Boomer generation (79 million born 1946 – 1964), are virtually all retired. Millions of older Americans are retiring early in the wake of the pandemic. Per AARP, among Americans who aren’t in the labor force, the researchers found what they call a “large” increase in those who identify themselves as retired, rising from 53 to 60 percent of the category of people who are not employed.[1]

“Our staffing challenges limit the services we can provide to the community and this negatively impacts the financial health of the organization,” said Randy Wiitala, Board Treasurer District 5. The Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) recently reported that with nearly 10,000 open positions, Minnesota hospital and health system financials are down significantly. With an almost 250% one-year increase in job vacancy rates, a 172% decline in year over year financials for acute care hospitals, exponentially rising labor and supply costs, and the need to rely on temporary staffing, there is an intense strain on the state’s hospitals and health systems. The overall state-wide vacancy rate in 2022 is about 21% compared to only about 6% in 2021. Medicare reimburses hospitals on average 20%, below the cost of care, and Medicaid reimburses at 27% below cost. Hospitals and healthcare systems bear the burden of these unpaid costs. These findings illustrate that Minnesota’s hospitals and health systems are in dire need.[2]

There is more to support these facts. Per the Minnesota Department of Health, 97 of the 130 hospitals in Minnesota are classified as rural. Of those, 42 lost money four of the last eight years; 19 are at risk for closure and six MN rural hospitals have closed since 2005. Per the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Minnesota Job Vacancies Triple in One Year” (October 25, 2022).

“Large turnover in 2020 was due to employees leaving and not being able to fill the openings,” said Mary Sanders, Board Clerk District 2. A recent NSH Turnover and Retention support stated that as of 10/1/2022, 16 of the 34 positions vacated in 2020 are still open. She continued, “The hardest to fill positions are Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Dietary and Housekeeping.” The report also shows that 2022 (to date) employee turnover at NSH is on par with that of 2021 in the areas of Ambulance, Care Center, Home Health, Hospital, Office, Operations and Outpatient. Turnover for 2021 is significantly lower than in 2020 and 2019.

Per the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), one in five job vacancies in Minnesota are currently in health care. There are currently 40,000 total health care job vacancies in the state.[3]

“Caregivers for the Care Center is another hard to fill position. We are not alone there either,” said Patty Winchell-Dahl, Board Member District 1. “Our Care Center has higher retention rates than state rates as reported by LeadingAge MN.” The average annual turnover rate (nursing homes in the country) was 128 percent, with some facilities experiencing turnover that exceeded 300 percent.[4] “EMS staffing is an ongoing challenge; the American Ambulance Association Employee Turnover Study reported EMS employee turnover ranging from 27% - 36%,” said Winchell-Dahl. “We are working on immigration opportunities, but that is a multi-year process. We don’t have the luxury of hiring J1 cultural exchange or H2B non-immigrant employees like other area employers.” NSH previously addressed ongoing recruitment efforts and will continue to explore new avenues.

In a recent Employee Benefits Overview and Market Comparison, Ryan LeBeau, Vice President, Benefits Consultant for USI reported that North Shore Health is comparable or better than peer group averages, hospitals and Minnesota employers in Plan Design Value, Payroll Contributions, Monthly Cost, and Paid Time Off.

A large percentage of the positions at NSH are negotiated and agreed to by unions, establishing a competitive wage scale.

“We hope that by sharing this information, it will help to clarify that North Shore Health operates a respectable and competitive program in its overall efforts to recruit, hire, pay, provide benefits and retain employees,” said Kay Olson. “The staffing crisis and financial challenges are occurring statewide, not just here.”

North Shore Health has been a pillar of the community since the 1960s, providing quality healthcare services for all of Cook County. It is a good place to work and provides competitive wages and benefits. It is a contributor to the health and well-being of the community, and helps to make Cook County a great place to live. Community members can help by communicating advocacy on healthcare issues to our state and federal leaders.

To learn more about available positions and view detailed job descriptions, please visit: or call 218-387-3794.


[1] Workforce 2022 | Tableau Public



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North Shore Health

North Shore Health is a rural health facility located on the beautiful north shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, MN. The organization, which is part of the Cook County Hospital District includes a 16-bed critical access hospital, a 37-bed skilled nursing facility, a home health agency, an ambulance service and a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic services. Their mission is “Community Access to Compassionate Care”.

The views expressed in this in article or photos are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Lake Superior News / Lake Superior Media.


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«December 2022»
  • One Small Step Outcomes
    One Small Step Outcomes

    One Small Step Outcomes

    COOK COUNTY, MINNESOTA  ~~~~~  December 3, 2022  (LSNews)  In May of 2022 WTIP North Shore Community Radio partnered with StoryCorps, the national nonprofit dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs, as part of StoryCorps’ One Small Step Radio Station Hubs project. WTIP is one of six public radio stations across the country selected to collaborate on the One Small Step initiative, which facilitates conversation and connection between people of opposing viewpoints. One Small Step Communities is made possible with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

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