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.
Announced at the N.C. Press Association’s annual banquet in Raleigh on Feb. 27, Xpress’ wins also included a second-place finish in the General Excellence category for the state’s largest community newspapers and individual awards for five staff members.
“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.”
Local elected officials, ordinary citizens and even a Mission nurse all blasted the stewardship of Nashville, Tennessee-based HCA Healthcare, which bought the collection of hospitals and other health care institutions for $1.5 billion and began running it in February 2019. The comments came at a Feb. 10 meeting in Asheville to get public input on the performance of the system since it was taken over by the for-profit company.
Jones previously worked as the emergency services director in Anderson County, S.C., for almost 12 years and replaces outgoing Emergency Services Director Jerry VeHaun, who announced his retirement in December after serving in that role since 1972.
How did Xpress readers process all the local news and changes this year? Here’s a look at the topics that generated the most commentaries, letters to the editor and online comments in Xpress in 2019.
“If a patient or client has a poor-fitting wheelchair and/or poor seating, it contributes to an endless cascade of treatments, suffering and hospitalizations instead of patient progress.”
“The clinic serves young children, adolescents and adults with conditions including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida and cerebral palsy. … A perfect fit is necessary — not just for comfort — but to prevent potentially life-threatening pressure sores.”
“My story hardly registers on the health care scale of misery. Others have experienced far worse, losing their life savings for not being ‘in network.'”
On Oct. 31 — over nine months after N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein announced his conditions of approval for the sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare — one of those key conditions was met by the naming of Gibbins Advisors as the independent monitor of HCA’s compliance with the deal.
Nine months after the merger took effect, the public still has no idea whether a monitor has been chosen, what the firm’s name is, when it will start work and – importantly – who’s been minding the store to keep HCA and Mission Health accountable in the interim.
While the trust’s professional leadership remains under consideration, board chair Janice Brumit confirms that its board has filled out its inaugural complement of 14 members from WNC. After the nonprofit hires its inaugural CEO and finishes its strategic plan later this year, she estimates that other organizations will be able to apply for its grants starting in the spring of 2020 and receive money the following fall.
While returning repeatedly to messages of growth and their commitment to long-term investments in the region’s health care infrastructure, the CEO and CFO for HCA Healthcare’s new North Carolina division also responded to questions about the company’s business model, staffing and morale in a June 20 meeting with local media.
“On Wednesday, April 10, Wendell Potter, former vice president of communications for health insurance giant Cigna, will speak on Transforming Healthcare in America at two public forums in Asheville.”
The sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare means several changes to organizations and services once affiliated with Mission, including a shift of adult day care services from CarePartners to a new nonprofit, MountainCare.