HCA Mission Hospital nurses seek more staffing amid COVID-19 surge

Registered nurses at HCA's Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., are calling on CEO Chad Patrick to hire additional full and part-time RNs and support workers to address what they say is unsafe staffing at the facility. 

In a letter cited by National Nurses United, nurses said "unsafe staffing" has increased as the hospital sees a rise in COVID-19 patients. 

"Nurses at Mission are organizing to ensure that the Western North Carolina Community receives the highest standard of care possible. However, currently, conditions at the hospital are such that patient care is suffering," the letter to hospital administration states, according to the union. "Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated all existing issues, and we are on the verge of a local healthcare crisis if steps to alleviate the situation are not immediately taken."

The nurses' letter and requests come as COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Carolina rise. The state's department of health and human services reported 1,046 people were in the hospital with the illness July 10. That compares to 989 people July 7; 945 people July 4; and 912 people July 2.   

Nurses want the hospital to determine staffing assignments based on severity of each patient's illness — rather than staffing grid numbers, and they seek greater transparency about available staffing.

Mission Health spokesperson Nancy Lindell acknowledged the challenges of providing care during the pandemic but said the hospital is not near capacity and has the beds, staffing, supplies and equipment needed at this time.

"We understand that this global crisis is evolving every day and [personal protective equipment] shortages are affecting hospitals across the country," she said in a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review. "At Mission Health, we are taking every step possible to continue to meet the needs of the communities we serve, and we have done extensive planning, training and preparation to ensure the delivery of high-quality patient care during the COVID-19 crisis, and we are well-equipped to handle any potential surge."

Ms. Lindell said the hospital added travel nurses in conjunction with its focus on recruiting. Since March, Mission Hospital has hired 457 employees, and since this time last year, the hospital's RN team has grown by 175 full-time and part-time nurses in 37 nursing units, she said.

Outside of caring for patients during the pandemic, Mission Hospital nurses are trying to unionize. The nurses petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a union election in March, according to the Citizen Times. If such an election is held, nurses would vote whether to join National Nurses United. 

But Ms. Lindell contends the union "is trying to use this crisis to advance its own interest — organizing more members." 

"The COVID-19 pandemic is unique, and our colleagues' concerns are real. In this unparalleled crisis, everyone should stand together to support our nurses and not spread misinformation and fear to advance other agendas," she said.

The union said it wants a collective voice to better advocate for nurses and patients. 


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