'Critically understaffed': Lawmakers, patients and staff blast HCA's takeover of Mission Health

Patients, staff and elected officials are raising concerns about HCA Healthcare's management of Mission Health one year after the for-profit company acquired the Asheville, N.C.-based health system.

Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA completed its purchase of Mission Health, a six-hospital system, in February 2019. As part of the deal, an independent monitor was hired to oversee HCA's compliance with obligations stemming from the acquisition.

Gibbins Advisors, the firm hired to monitor compliance, has recently held four meetings across Western North Carolina to hear from local residents about HCA's first year operating Mission, according to the Asheville Citizen Times. The most recent listening session was Feb. 10 in Asheville, and it brought the same results as the previous three — employees, patients and politicians are displeased with the takeover.

During the meeting in Asheville, state Sen. Terry Van Duyn shared concerns from her constituents regarding patient safety, physician disenfranchisement and charity care, which were detailed in a letter co-signed by state Reps. John Ager, Susan Fisher and Brian Turner, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer and Buncombe County (N.C.) Commission Chair Brownie Newman.

"The time for patience in the transition has passed and the time for real conversation with HCA leadership about these problems has come," Ms. Van Duyn said, according to Asheville TV station WLOS.

Former patients and hospital staff also raised concerns. Jennifer Kirby, RN, a nurse at Mission Hospital for 15 years, said the facility is "critically understaffed," according to the Asheville Citizen Times.

"Every single department in the hospital that is designed to help the patient get out and toward wellness is critical and unethically and inhumanely understaffed," Ms. Kirby said. "I used to be really proud of where I work, and I'm not anymore."

Though Gibbins Advisors' purview pertains to the obligations within HCA's asset purchase agreement with Mission, a representative for the firm who attended the meetings said he would share other concerns he hears with HCA management.

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