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Amid COVID-19, NC Attorney General Gives HCA More Time To Answer Concerns

In February, Attorney General Josh Stein sent HCA Healthcare a letter requesting answers by this week about allegations the healthcare system is not following through agreements it made when the for-profit firm purchased Mission Health last year. 

Those answers were due at the end of March – this past Tuesday.  Stein says he has given HCA more time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I do not want to get in the way of their focus, in case there is an outbreak in Western North Carolina," says Stein. "I think by the end of the month we should expect a full range of answers unless, of course, if there is a big crisis in Western North Carolina then we would revisit that."

The main points Stein wants addressed deal with HCA’s charity care policy and access to sexual assault nurse examiners. Stein says he also wants to know more about billing issues. He says HCA has sent out refunds but he wants to know the scope. 

“We want to get a clear sense of how many patients did this impact, what was the scale of the refunds and the total amount of  refunds made," explains Stein. 

Stein says he wants answers but he will be flexible.  

“The example of covid-19 as a health crisis just underscores how critically important it is that HCA and Mission are the best hospital for Western North Carolina that it can possibly be," says Stein. 

In the last few months, nurses at Mission Health began a push to unionize. Thursday, they released demands to HCA to recognize the union and provide better protections for nurses against COVID-19. 

“I mean as a general matter I absolutely believe in people’s right to form a union. It’s just not part of  what my inquiry to HCA involved," says Stein. "I'm for anyone who wants to unionize to unionize as long as it's in the proper way and I'm sure the nurses at HCA are diong that. 

Mission on Thursday announced all staff must now wear masks in patient care areas at its facilities. 

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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