Union Election Set for Mission, NC RNs
RNs to Speak Out Wednesday on Workplace Safety
The date has been set. Mail ballots will be sent to registered nurses at HCA’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC on August 18 to determine if they want to form a union, National Nurses Organizing Committee-North Carolina, announced today. Votes will be counted on September 16 by the National Labor Relations Board which is conducting the secret ballot election. NNOC is an affiliate of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest RN union.
Mission RNs, who petitioned the NLRB in March for the vote, have said they are seeking to strengthen their collective voice, with a union contract, to address critical patient safety concerns at the hospital. With the coronavirus continuing to surge, the nurses will hold a press conference Wednesday morning to speak out on escalating problems with safe care.
What: Press Conference by Mission Hospital RNs
When: Wednesday, August 5, 8 a.m.
Where: 509 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC
“We are elated to finally have the opportunity to proceed with a vote to build a democratic union, with a unified voice to protect our patients and our colleagues to assure the entire Asheville community that they can count on the high quality care they need and deserve,” said Mission RN Stephanie Grant.
The RNs have had broad community support as well. "From the time HCA has acquired Mission Hospital, we have heard consistent concerns from members of the community as well as doctors and nurses about how inadequate staffing is hurting patient care,” Brownie Newman, Chair of the Buncombe County Commission, said today. “This is one of the reasons I support the effort of nurses to join the National Nurses United. The people of western North Carolina need a voice in our hospital, and the nurses can be that voice."
In the press conference Wednesday, RNs will discuss growing concerns about inadequate staffing that has resulted in an increased risk of COVID-19 exposures, incidents of workplace violence, and multiple other concerns, nurses report.
The event coincides with national protests at over 200 hospitals from coast to coast sponsored by National Nurses United to protest the continued failure of hospitals to demand hospital employers and political leaders take immediate action to save lives. The actions will be held inside and outside hospitals in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
In July Mission RNs delivered a letter to HCA and Mission administrators warning about rapidly deteriorating conditions as the pandemic was exploding across the state. But administrators have failed to correct the problems.
“Conditions at the hospital are such that patient care is suffering,” the July letter to hospital administration said. “Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated all existing issues and we are on the verge of a local healthcare crisis if steps to alleviate the situation are not immediately taken.”
“Yet since we urged HCA and the hospital to act to protect public safety for patients and those of us who have been putting our lives on the line daily for our patients and our community, virtually nothing has changed. Instead we’ve experienced abandonment by those running this hospital,” said Mission RN Mickey Davis this week.
“This ongoing COVID-19 surge has only increased the risk of exposure, and infection is growing as nurses are not provided the backup of additional staff to protect ourselves and our patients. This has become an emergency which is not acceptable,” said Sue Fischer, another Mission RN.
In the Emergency Department patients have been left in the hallways despite having multiple open rooms, because there were not enough RNs to provide care.
In the Trauma Care Unit (TCU) short staffing has been common, sometimes with the unit down three RNs, which puts everyone at risk. In one example two TCU RNs came down with fevers and one was vomiting after exposure.
The hospital has required exposed TCU nurses to work on the floor without providing testing, and they have been told to continue to work when not showing symptoms, even after a confirmed exposure though the science has shown the virus can be spread even when asymptomatic. If nurses choose to get self-tested outside the hospital, they are mandated to self-quarantine without pay until the results come back.
An RN was exposed on the Neurology unit, told not to inform other staff, and told to report to work as long as not showing symptoms.
On general medical floors, several incidents of attacks on RNs from agitated patients have occurred. In one case an RN was assaulted when pulled down by her hair suffering a head injury. In another incident a social worker was grabbed from behind and dragged across the floor. Workplace violence incidents occur far more frequently when staffing is inadequate.
Inadequate staffing has also led to unacceptable delays in care, such as timely transfer of patients for diagnostic procedures in the Trauma Care Unit.
“These outrageous conditions are a disgrace. There is no excuse for HCA or the Mission administration to be subjecting its frontline caregivers or patients to jeopardy,” said Malinda Markowitz, RN, an NNOC President.
HCA is the wealthiest hospital system in the U.S. It made $1.1 billion in profits in the 2nd Quarter of 2020, and it received $1.4 billion from the CARES pandemic Act as well as an additional $300 million since June 30.