2020 was the year of the nurse, proclaimed Greg Lowe, the president of HCA Healthcare’s North Carolina division. But Mission’s eight hospitals are now gearing up for a major nursing shortage, he told members of Asheville’s Council of Independent Business Owners.
HCA Healthcare, which owns and operates Mission Hospital in Asheville, reported this month that it made $1.4 billion in profits for the first three months of 2021, more than double the amount for the same period last year.
The team at Gibbins Advisors wants to hear every complaint raised about Mission Health — but they can only call noncompliance on concerns directly tied to the 15 core commitments HCA Healthcare agreed to uphold when the hospital conglomerate purchased the Mission system in 2019.
The initiative has identified six strategies: healthy food distribution, community gardens, agriculture networks, food waste, cooking and nutrition education, and the development of a regional food council.
Tax records examined by Asheville Watchdog reveal that in the decade leading up to the $1.5 billion sale of Asheville’s community-owned hospital system, a steadily increasing amount of Mission’s revenue went to salaries and bonuses for an increasingly crowded suite of non-clinical executives.
Amid internal upheaval following the sudden departure of CEO Antony Chiang, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty, the $1.5 billion foundation held its first annual meeting virtually on Oct. 28. Highlights included funding updates and a discussion about organizational transparency.
Years from now, the decision in 2018 by the directors of Mission Health to sell to HCA Healthcare might be seen as a brilliant strategic maneuver, one that guaranteed affordable, high-quality healthcare for future generations of western North Carolinians. This was, and still is, the position of the directors and executives who pushed the deal.
The news stunned Asheville and Western North Carolina, where Mission Health System Inc. was the area’s largest employer, its main healthcare provider, and a long-time source of civic pride. Seemingly out of the blue, Mission’s directors publicly announced on March 21, 2018, that they had voted to sell the 133-year-old nonprofit to HCA Healthcare.
Less than a year after Antony Chiang arrived in Asheville to lead the newly formed Dogwood Health Trust, he’s left the foundation — and despite repeated attempts, Xpress has yet to learn why.
“I also predict that nurses will earn a higher hourly rate and will be able to work in an environment with higher nurse-to-patient ratios.”
Union leaders expect a struggle with HCA but say Asheville nurses are “ready to engage in that struggle.”
Labor scholar Bruce Nissen warns that HCA is signaling “not accepting the results.” But he predicts the hospital company can’t succeed after a landslide union win.
“What kind of community hospital do you want?”
Registered nurses at Mission go public with frustrations over alleged staff shortages and safety concerns during pandemic, as the National Labor Relations Board says votes on union representation will be counted Sept. 16.
As Mission Health begins to reopen for elective surgeries and procedures put on hold during the first wave of the ongoing pandemic, the unresolved question that roiled the community just three months ago remains: Was HCA’s purchase of Mission Health healthy for Asheville?
On May 1, Greg Lowe, president of HCA’s North Carolina Division, shared the Nashville, Tenn.-based health care giant’s summary of its first-year performance with four parties.
“Our current best estimate is that if, after April 29, we immediately return to the rates of viral transmission occurring prior to widespread social distancing, stress on hospitals to cope with rising demand from COVID-19 patients could begin as soon as Memorial Day,” says the report, prepared by a team of North Carolina scientists.
Area hospitals have taken somewhat differing approaches to the question of whether to stop performing elective surgeries and other medical procedures. There are worries nationally about whether there will be enough personal protective gear like masks and gloves for health care workers, but hospitals in the Asheville area say they have good supplies for now.
After more than a month of being criticized by patients and elected officials at a series of public meetings, HCA Healthcare is responding to allegations of inadequate staffing and poor service at the Mission Health facilities it acquired last year. But even as the company speaks out, nurses from its Asheville hospitals rallied Sunday, with calls for a union to improve working conditions at the medical facilities the company acquired last year. Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman and Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer issued a joint letter supporting the nurses’ efforts.