Press Release

Ascension nurses call for urgent changes after Catholic chain named in “Dirty Dozen” employer list

Nurses on picket line, one holds sign "Ascension, we can see your greedy side"

Ascension nurses represented by National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) continue to call for urgent changes at the sprawling hospital chain after the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH) today named Ascension to its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of employers who put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe practices. In recent years, NNOC nurses have launched a successful organizing campaign in response to troubling conditions at Ascension hospitals. 

“It’s no surprise to union nurses that Ascension is on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list after seeing management trying, and failing, to bust our union and squash our attempts to improve patient care conditions,” said Nicki Horvat, RN in the neonatal intensive care unit at Ascension St. Agnes in Baltimore, Md. “We hope this is a wake-up call to regulators, who need to investigate how Ascension takes advantage of its tax-exempt status to maximize profits at the expense of the communities it should be prioritizing.”

In Jan. 2024, NNU released new research that found the Catholic chain – one of the largest and wealthiest in the country with 140 hospitals nationwide – cut a quarter of its labor and delivery units with disproportionate impacts on low-income, Black, and Latine communities. 

Amidst a nationwide rise in pregnancy- and childbirth-related mortality, the findings of “Dangerous Descent: How Ascension Betrays its Mission by Gutting Care for Pregnant Patients and Babies” underscore how Ascension’s practice of eliminating obstetrics services stands in stark contrast to the hospital’s stated commitment of “serving all persons with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable.” For more information on NNU’s research findings and Ascension’s long record of prioritizing profits over patients, please see here.

To date, the U.S. bishops who oversee the Catholic hospitals have been silent on the closures, according to an April 2024 report from Religion News Service.

Horvat, RN continued, “Union nurses will keep pressuring Ascension to listen to nurses’ solutions, including safely staffing every unit to ensure the best care for patients and guaranteeing obstetrics services at all hospitals. All we want is for Ascension to practice what it preaches and institute policies that bring Ascension hospitals closer to the ‘spiritually centered, holistic care’ that management lauds publicly.”

This latest news follows previous media reporting on Ascension intentionally short-staffing its hospitals to improve profitability (despite its non-profit status); closing hospitals serving low-income neighborhoods while opening facilities in wealthier neighborhoods; and “moonlighting” as a private equity firm. 

NNOC nurses in Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, and Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph and St. Francis hospitals in Wichita, Kan., all ratified their first-ever union contracts earlier this year, after organizing historic strikes during contract negotiations. Nurses at Ascension Saint Agnes Hospital in Baltimore, Md. are currently in contract negotiations after organizing a union in late 2023

National Nurses Organizing Committee is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the United States with nearly 225,000 members nationwide. NNU affiliates also include California Nurses Association, DC Nurses Association, Michigan Nurses Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and New York State Nurses Association.