DULUTH -- Nearly 700 nurses and health care workers have filed a petition with Essentia to express concerns about Essentia Health's takeover of CommonSpirit's Catholic Health Initiatives hospitals.

According to a news release from the Minnesota Nurses Association, health care workers at Essentia and CHI worry that the acquisition will result in less access to patient care. The health systems signed a letter of intent in early January for Essentia to acquire 17 CommonSpirit facilities in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Essentia partnered with Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake last summer, which registered nurse Tristin Eastvold believes hurt the quality of care the hospital provides.

“Ever since the takeover, we’ve lost numerous staff, causing shortages in how we care for patients," Eastvold said in the MNA release. "We don’t want CHI’s hospitals and clinics to lay off workers, cut the services they offer or close entirely.”

MNA members who have signed the petition work at both CHI and Essentia facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

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Essentia Health released the following statement in response to the petition:

"In January, Essentia Health and CommonSpirit Health signed a Letter of Intent for CommonSpirit-owned facilities operating under the CHI brand in North Dakota and Minnesota to join Essentia. We continue to negotiate as this was the first step in reaching a formal agreement to transfer ownership of these facilities.



"Essentia recognizes the important role that health care plays in the autonomy and vibrancy of rural communities. This, along with our commitment to providing high-quality care, will help ensure the long-term success of these facilities should an agreement move forward. This would strengthen those communities by benefiting both our patients and staff."

Nurses will further discuss their concerns and plans for next steps at a news conference Thursday morning. MNA members, including Eastvold and Chris Rubesch, a registered nurse at Essentia-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, will speak.