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Protest Vigils Set Over Giant Hospital Chain’s Firing of Two RN Whistleblowers on Patient Safety

Press Release, 1/30/14

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Registered nurses will hold candlelight vigils tonight and tomorrow night to protest the firing of two registered nurse whistleblowers by the giant corporate hospital chain Community Health System earlier this week.

The vigils will be held tonight outside Fallbrook Community Hospital near San Diego and tomorrow night at Watsonville, Ca. Community Hospital.

Both RNs, Veronica Poss of Fallbrook and Tim Thomas of Watsonville, were targeted by CHS for speaking at a Florida press conference earlier this month challenging the hospital giant’s buyout of another major hospital system, Health Management Associates.

The event emphasized serious concerns about inadequate staffing and other patient care problems at CHS hospitals, and the decision of hospital administrators to respond by harassing, bullying, and threatening the RNs rather than work with them to improve care.

Poss and Thomas have been prominent RN public advocates at their hospitals and in their communities for addressing serious problems with patient safety, and calling on improvements to protect public health. Poss also publically admonished CHS in a television interview in December about CHS’s plan to close the cardiac rehabilitation unit, a vital service to the senior residents of the area.

The Fallbrook vigil is set for 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. outside the hospital, 624 East Elder Street, in Fallbrook. The Watsonville vigil is Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. outside the facility, 75 Neilson St.

CHS carried out its retaliation against Poss and Thomas despite being already under court orders at three of its hospitals in California and Ohio for retaliatory threats, harassment, and firings of RNs and other violations of other RN rights.

“The firings are an obvious effort to silence all CHS nurses from fulfilling their role as advocates for patient safety, and an unmistakable message of defiance to the courts and the federal labor board that CHS will persist in their harassment and intimidation of nurses,” said Jean Ross, RN, co-president of National Nurses United whose affiliates represent the CHS RNs.

"I've been a consistent advocate at Fallbrook Hospital for patient care improvements, safe staffing and RN rights,” said Poss. “It's disgraceful that the CHS’s corporate management has taken such extreme and uncalled for measures against me and other RNs across the system for our efforts on behalf of our patients, our profession, and our community.”

“Many in our community have no idea that our hospital is owned and operated by a for-profit Wall Street corporation, said Thomas. “All across the country nurses like me are losing their careers for speaking on behalf of our patients, and our profession.”

The firings also occurred less than a week after a U.S. District Court Judge delivered a sweeping cease and desist injunction against a CHS hospital in Ohio ordering it to cease and desist its lawless behavior of repeated illegal discipline and harassment of its RNs, and reinstate an illegally fired Ohio RN. Last week an administrative law judge also found CHS affiliate Greenbrier Valley Medical Center in West Virginia to have violated federal law when it disciplined a nurse in retaliation for his union activity.

CHS is now the largest hospital chain in the country, controlling 206 hospitals, mostly in rural communities where patients have no other options for hospital care, making small isolated areas like Watsonville vulnerable to low patient safety standards.

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