I recently had my first experience with the new Mission Hospital, now owned and managed by the “for profit” Health Corporation of America, commonly known as HCA. This experience is documented below.
I drove my friend to Mission Hospital for an outpatient arteriogram. We arrived at 9 a.m. for a 9:30 appointment. The test was held in Entrance 2, which is a large multistory building. The public areas consisted of two large lobbies, a gift shop and a cafeteria. I was to wait for my friend to drive her home after her procedure. I was at the hospital until 5 p.m. At that time, I was told that she would not be ready to go home until 7:30 p.m. I left the hospital and returned at 7:30 to pick up my friend.
While at the hospital, I noticed that there were hardly any staff in either of the lobbies, in spite of the fact that in the main lobby there was designated seating for staff which would accommodate probably eight or so staff members. During the entire time I was there, I saw at most two staff members there. At one time, I attempted to get information about the status of my friend, and there was only one staff member available; she was a new employee and was unable to give me any information. The only information I got regarding the multiple delays were texts I received from my friend. Nothing from hospital employees, nor was I able to locate staff to get her status.
I returned to the hospital at 7:30. When I arrived, I could not find even one staff member to help me locate my friend. Not in either lobby, or anywhere else in the public areas. I then attempted to go to the back of the first floor where patients were located only to find all the doors locked. In desperation I looked for anyone wearing a hospital badge. Eventually, I located a woman in street clothes who was wearing a hospital badge. She worked in billing and was kind enough to stop where she was going and helped me locate my friend. I will say that when I encountered staff members, they were very helpful. The problem was locating a staff member.
I could not imagine running a hospital like this or why staff was so scarce. The only thing I could think of was, in an effort to cut costs, a lot of the lower-level staff positions were eliminated, and the hospital was running a skeleton crew. I wondered if the skeleton crew extended to the part of the hospital where sick patients needed constant care and, if so, what risk this put the patients in. Regarding this patient risk, I have heard the following rumors since HCA has taken over Mission Hospital:
1. Nursing assistant positions have been reduced and/or eliminated and their workload has been shifted to the nurses responsible for patient care.
2. The patient load per floor nurse has been increased.
3. The hospital staff was directed not to talk to the press regarding working conditions or the changes HCA has instituted since they have taken over.
If these rumors are true, it appears that not only is HCA emphasizing profits at the expense of patient care, but attempting to keep this information from the public. Since Mission Hospital is the only option around for most of the citizens of Western North Carolina, this should make all citizens have grave concerns about the level of care this hospital is able and willing to provide.
— Kathryn Mead
Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Mission Health with a summary of the letter writer’s points, and we received the following response from spokesperson Nancy Lindell: “In recent months, we have seen increased patient volumes and are adding positions to ensure our nurses can continue to focus on providing excellent nursing care. We are adding recruitment staff to speed up our recruitment of nursing support positions.
“While unemployment rates across the country are at a 50-year low, we are trying to implement new and creative ways to incentivize job seekers to consider Mission Hospital. In October 2019, HCA Healthcare raised the minimum wage for all staff to $12.50 per hour. Additionally, we are now offering a higher minimum wage for 12 positions, including certified nurse assistants, patient care techs, health unit coordinators, environmental services and food services, along with sign-on bonuses for registered nurses as high at $15,000, doing what we can to fill open positions.
“Mission has hired more than 80 new staff in January across the hospital and additionally has contracted with more than 300 traveler nurses who are here assisting until our new full-time colleagues are on board.
“Our administrators meet with front-line staff in daily huddles to recognize the incredible care being delivered and to work to provide the tools and resources needed for our team to care for our patients in our region. We pride ourselves on our compassionate care of every patient who comes to us.”