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HCA Independent Monitor Hears Concerns Over Patient Services, Staffing Levels At Asheville Meeting

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio
Public meeting of HCA independent monitor Gibbins Advisors at MAHEC in Asheville Monday February 10th

Concerns over patient care and staffing levels dominated Monday evening’s public meeting in Asheville held by the independent monitor overseeing HCA’s purchase Mission Health.  

Gibbins Advisors has been holding public meetings in cities near Mission Health’s hospitals.  The group was hired to ensure that HCA complied with 15 different stipulations that it agreed to when it purchased Mission last year for $1.5 billion.  Asheville was the first stop in the second round of meetings, and what the independent monitor heard Monday night at MAHEC was similar to what it heard previously – concerns over cuts patient services. 

Buncombe County state senator Terry Van Duyn - backed by the rest of the county's General Assembly delegation as well as Buncombe County Board of Commissioners chair Brownie Newman and Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer - addressed the meeting first.  Van Duyn talked about how the the HCA sale was sold to the public.  “If Mission is losing money, how will HCA make money by purchasing Mission?," she asked.  "The only answer we ever received was that HCA would make money through more efficient purchasing power and staff reductions in the redundant back office – administrative positions.    It is clear now that this was a lie.”

Van Duyn’s speech drew the loudest response of support from those gathered – until Mission Hospital nurse Jenny Kirby spoke.  Through tears, she spoke of overworked staff at the hospital.

“Every single department in that hospital that is designed to help the patient get out and towards wellness is critically and unethically and inhumanely understaffed," Kirby said.  "I used to be really proud of where I worked.  But I’m not anymore.”

Mission Health officials were in attendance, but as it was not their meeting but rather the independent monitor’s, they declined comment on what was said.  

Gibbins Advisors will hold three more meetings this week before it complies a report.  Those meetings are:

- Tuesday February 11 in Brevard at Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County 5:30 - 7

- Wednesday February 12 in Marion at the Marion Community Building 11:30 - 1

- Thursday February 13 in Burnsville at Burnsville Town Center Auditorium 5:30 - 7

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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