Asheville nurses to rally as they begin new union contract negotiations with HCA

News release from the National Nurses Organizing Committee:
Nurses represented by National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., will hold a rally as they begin negotiations on a new union contract with HCA, the facility’s owner and largest health system in the United States. Nurses’ current contract will expire on July 2, and they say their key priorities for their new contract are intended to improve patient care and working conditions at their facility. NNOC represents more than 1,500 nurses at Mission Hospital.
“When HCA took over Mission in 2019, it completely changed our hospital for the worse,” said Kelly Coward, RN in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Mission Hospital since 1997. “We used to be the place that every nurse in the region wanted to work, and we had high retention because of it. But HCA cares more about profits than the people we take care of. This contract fight is about reclaiming Mission as a hospital to provide care for patients, not just an investment to milk for cash.”
Who: Nurses at Mission Hospital
What: Bargaining kick-off rally
When: Thursday, April 18, 8 a.m.
Where: Mission Hospital, 509 Biltmore Ave., Asheville, on the corner of Hospital Drive and Biltmore Ave.
“HCA is profiting off of our community’s pain and suffering. The people of Asheville deserve better,” said Hannah Drummond, RN in the emergency department at Mission Hospital. “As nurses, we’re patient advocates, whether that’s at the bedside or at the bargaining table, where we’ll be fighting for what we need to improve patient care and working conditions for everyone at Mission. Our community has been with us through a lot at Mission, and we look forward to showing HCA that Asheville has had enough of their toxic business practices.”
In a recent NNOC/NNU survey of nurses from across the U.S. who are involved in HCA bargaining this year, 68% of nurses said they infrequently or never had enough staffing coverage to take meal and rest breaks. Additionally, 84% said assignments and responsibilities had increased in recent years, while 72% said patient care quality had decreased.
“This is a huge year for thousands of nurses at HCA hospitals across the country, as NNOC/NNU will be bargaining at 18 hospitals in six states,” said Cathy Kennedy, RN and California Nurses Association/NNOC president. “Everyone knows the Mission nurses mean business, and they won’t be alone as nurses working at HCA facilities in Florida, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Nevada are all bargaining this summer.”
Following on from Mission nurses’ relentless advocacy for their patients and their hospital, governmental regulators at the local, state, and federal levels have taken action against HCA in recent months. This includes a lawsuit against HCA by the North Carolina attorney general, which local authorities in Buncombe County are also seeking to join, and a determination of “immediate jeopardy” for Mission patients made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency which oversees federal funding for the facility.
HCA, the largest health system in the country, advertises over 180 hospitals in its network. The company self-reported over $5.2 billion in profits in 2023 but regularly shuts down vital health services at its hospitals. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, HCA has reported over $31.7 billion in profits since 2018 and executive compensation totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.
HCA co-founder and major shareholder Thomas Frist, Jr., who has extensive experience serving as an executive at HCA, currently ranks in the top 40 in the Forbes 400 Richest Americans and the top 60 in the Bloomberg Billionaire Index of the world’s 500 richest people, with an estimated net worth of nearly $30 billion.
Editor’s note: Xpress reached out to Nancy Lindell, spokesperson for HCA Healthcare/Mission Health for a response to the nurses quoted in this release. She provided the following statement.
“The protests against Mission Health are no different from the ones National Nurses United has organized against other hospitals across the United States. As we enter negotiations for a new contract, we expect that this labor union will continue with various antics and making unfounded claims about our hospital.

In 2023, our employed full-time and part-time RNs increased 11% and our RN turnover rate is at 14%, compared to the 22% national average, which means more nurses are choosing to stay at Mission. Mission Health also spent an additional $20 million annually on pay increases over the past two years, which were not the result of any union bargaining.

We are proud of the quality care we provide, which has been recognized by independent third-party patient safety ratings organizations like Healthgrades, that put Mission Hospital in the top 1% of hospitals nationwide for patient safety in 2020 through 2024.”

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