HCA seeks nurse backup ahead of potential strike

Dive Brief:

  • HCA is looking for qualified nurses in the event of a job action against its facilities in Los Angeles, such as a strike, according to a job posting from May 29. The giant hospital chain did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
  • The country’s largest nurses union, National Nurses United, has recently disputed with the system over other pandemic-related labor issues. Nurses at 15 HCA hospitals protested in late May over contractually bargained wage increases the hospital says it can’t deliver due to financial strains, asking nurses to give up the increases or face layoffs.
  • Another dispute involves a last-minute change mandating in-person voting for nurses deciding whether to form a union at HCA’s Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, according to an NNU release.

Dive Insight:

Nashville-based HCA Healthcare, the largest among for-profit hospital operators, has received the most among for-profits in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding so far, about $1 billion. The amount is about 2% of HCA’s total 2019 revenue.

The 184-hospital system said it has not had to furlough any employees like other systems have, though some employees have been redeployed or seen their hours and pay decrease. HCA implemented a program providing seven weeks paid time off at 70% of base pay that was scheduled to expire May 16, but extended through June 27.

An NNU spokesperson told Healthcare Dive the program isn’t technically a furlough because some HCA nurses participating said they must remain on call or work rotating shifts.

The union spokesperson also confirmed that an email was sent to HCA nurses referring them to the strike-nurse job posting, which would offer more pay than their current roles.

“This really is a threat to nurses, and particularly insulting when you already have layoffs or cuts, if you don’t accept further concessions,” a union spokesperson told Healthcare Dive.

Nurses in California joined those in five other states at the end of May to protest HCA’s proposal to cut wage increases or impose layoffs.

At HCA’s Regional Medical Center in San Jose, California, NNU filed a suit to block the closure of the maternal-child care center, which it said is in violation of laws to protect the health and safety of the community. The closure proceeded anyway on May 30, followed by an announcement from Santa Clara County that the move may be jeopardizing the facility’s Level II Trauma designation agreement.

Across the country, frontline caregivers continue noting a lack of adequate personal protective equipment. The union’s executive director, Bonnie Castillo, will testify before Congress on Wednesday on protecting nurses during the pandemic and the dire need for optimal PPE.