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Mission Health Responds To NYT Allegations Against HCA Healthcare

Courtesy of Mission Health
Mission Health System was purchased by HCA Healthcare in February 2019.

A New York Times investigation found of the 60 wealthiest hospital chains in the country, at least 36 have laid off, furloughed or reduced the pay of employees as they try to save money during the pandemic despite receiving funding from the CARES Act.  HCA Healthcare, the owners of the Mission Health system, is included in the report.  HCA system received about $1 billion in bailout funds and is one of the world’s wealthiest hospital chains.

Mission Health System says that it has not furloughed or laid off any employees due to the pandemic. 

“In fact, we have continued to pay employees for whom we have no work 70 percent of their base pay. To date, we have spent $138 million on pay continuation programs, providing continued paychecks to more than 120,000 colleagues, including 16,000 union members even though it is not part of their contract,” explains a spokesperson in an email. 

The report also explains that 19 HCA Healthcare hospitals have filed complaints about a lack of respirator masks and PPE with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

In Asheville, Mission Health employees pushed the hospital for a ‘universal’ mask policy and are pursuing a nurses union.  The nurses’ union is still in negotiations with the Mission Health System. 

A spokesperson with the health system says HCA workers has been "foregoing wage increases." Additionally they say that leadership, corporate and division employees as well as hospital CEOs, CFOS, CMOS, CNOS and COOS have taken 10 to 30 percent pay cuts. 

“We asked our unions to forego their raises, as well, to maintain continuation pay for their members, and they refused,” says a spokesperson. “As a result, while the pay continuation program will continue for most of our colleagues, it will end June 6 for most colleagues represented by a union. While we hope to continue to avoid layoffs, the unions’ decisions have made that more difficult for our facilities that are unionized.” 

There has also been an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in hospital staff. Mission confirms that there were six cases of COVID-19 at the hospital’s pulmonary unit.  On May 29, Dr. William Hathaway, CMO of Mission Health, said that the other almost 60 members of the unit were tested for COVID-19 and all tests came back negative. Mission Health is currently confirming a total number of staff who have contracted COVID-19 in the hospital system for Blue Ridge Public Radio. 

There have been 393 cases of COVID-19 in Buncombe County with 34 deaths, of these deaths 29 were residents of long-term care facilities as of June 8. 

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.