Physicians criticize HCA's management of Mission Health

Fifty physicians have penned a letter criticizing HCA Healthcare's "for-profit-driven-changes" to Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Health, which it acquired for $1.5 billion in 2019, according to Asheville Watchdog, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news publication.

The physicians raised concerns about the quality of care, with attendees at an Oct. 19 public meeting in Transylvania County — where Mission Health Transylvania Regional Hospital is located — also seeking answers to the alleged declining care quality, including the loss of physicians and long wait times at the emergency department, according to the report. 

The letter, which includes signatures from a former board member and former chief of staff of Mission Hospital, claims that Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA's management "gutted the heart and soul of our community healthcare system" despite advocacy and protests from various sectors. 

"The relationships and deep personal investment that historically mattered to staff across the board have been stifled. Emblematic of this is the loss of over 200 physicians and countless healthcare staff who have left Mission and/or the medical community since the sale," according to the letter, which is addressed to Ronald Winters, managing director of Gibbins Advisors, the independent monitor overseeing HCA's compliance with the terms of the sale.

The letter calls for "meaningful engagement" with HCA leaders at the national and local levels, arguing that the 182-hospital system has shown little to no interest in discussions with physicians so far. 

"Profits over people is not an ethic, model, or aspiration that can deliver the quality of care we all expect and deserve. We can accept this, or we can work towards a collective physician voice to hold HCA accountable," the letter states. "This letter is the initial step in bringing together physicians in our region to address the changes needed to support the excellence of care we know is possible."

The letter was signed by 42 physicians across various specialties. Eight physicians signed the letter as "anonymous," according to the report. 

"We are pleased that the independent monitor acknowledges Mission Health has continued to honor our commitments in the purchase agreement. While quality of care does not fall under the monitor’s role, Mission Hospital is regularly surveyed by officials from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Joint Commission and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to ensure we are delivering safe care. Additionally, other independent third-party organizations have deemed Mission Hospital one of the nation's best," a spokesperson for HCA said in a statement provided to Asheville Watchdog. 

"We have numerous opportunities and processes in place for frequent feedback from our patients, colleagues and medical staff. Our quality and care experience teams welcome direct comments about patient care and diligently work to address any concerns during or after a visit. Mission Hospital leaders regularly round on all hospital units and attend shift huddles. There are also multiple professional practice councils, nursing governance, and medical staff committees where we discuss any staff concerns and solutions to address them. Semi-annual employee engagement surveys also provide our teams an anonymous way to use their voice. From these surveys, we have made significant strides in our engagement since this time last year," according to the statement. 

Becker's has reached out to HCA for further comment.

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