Workers to rally at HCA headquarters over staffing

Service Employees International Union members plan to rally April 19 at HCA Healthcare's headquarters in Nashville, Tenn., over what they allege is a staffing crisis at the for-profit hospital operator, according to a news release shared with Becker's.

The announcement comes as the union is negotiating contracts on behalf of 22,000 members at HCA-owned hospitals in California, Nevada, Texas, Kansas and Florida. 

Union members include nurses and other healthcare workers at HCA-owned hospitals in Florida and Nevada, ancillary staff at HCA hospitals in Texas and Kansas and nurses in California. They said that during negotiations, they want HCA to address their concerns regarding what they describe as "chronic short-staffing that is driving worker burnout, patient care failures."

SEIU said workers plan to rally in person at the health system's headquarters while the annual HCA shareholder meeting takes place virtually. During the meeting, shareholders will vote on a resolution that would require the company's board to review staffing levels in HCA hospitals and the effect on patient safety and care quality, according to the union.

SEIU has criticized HCA in recent months, pointing to what it says are short staffing levels and excess executive pay. The union also pointed to a report SEIU released in January titled "Care Crisis: How Low Staffing Contributes to Patient Care Failures at HCA Hospitals."

HCA accused the union of attacking hospitals through misleading information and staged events.

"Their attempt to exploit nationwide healthcare challenges to advance their own business interests of organizing more dues paying members demonstrates a lack of regard for patient care and the communities we serve," the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's

HCA also said its staffing "is safe, appropriate and in line with other community hospitals and applicable regulations, and our nurse retention rates are better than the national average. In addition, new graduate nurses at HCA Healthcare make an average base salary of more than $90,000 per year including benefits, and the average for experienced nurses is more than $110,000 with benefits. This is our companywide average and varies in lower and higher cost of living states."

Additionally, HCA emphasized its stance that unions "do not benefit our patients, hospitals or colleagues." The company declined to voluntarily recognize SEIU in 2020. 

HCA operates 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 care sites in 20 states and the United Kingdom, according to its website.

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