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Mission Nurses Picket Over Staffing

National Nurses United
Mission RNs prepare to deliver list of items they wish the hospital had provided during nurses week to HCA CEO Sam Hazen

(6/15 8 a.m.) Nurses are picketing outside Mission Hospital in Asheville. The Tuesday morning protest comes as their union negotiates a new contract. A statement issued by National Nurses Organizing Committee  says the informational picket event seeks to alert the public about persistent problems about safe staffing, including what they say are hospital management’s consistent failure to adhere to its own staffing standards. The picket is the latest display of frustration with Tennessee-based HCA Healthcare, which purchased the hospital in 2019.  At a listening session in 2020, local lawmakers told an independent monitor they were concerned over HCA's performance after it bought Mission Health.                                                                  

Credit Hannah Drummond
Hannah Drummond is a Trauma Stepdown Registered Nurse at Mission Health

Registered Nurse Hannah Drummond says the situation hasn’t changed since then.  “The staffing shortages are causing RNs to wear the role of wear the hat of six or seven different roles,” says Drummond. “I walk out of work, feeling sad that my patients didn't get the care that they deserve and to no fault of the nurses. We get asked to do more than is humanly possible.”                                                               

In response to Tuesday’s picket,  HCA  Mission Health Spokesperson Nancy Lindell issued the following statement:   

“For 136 years, Mission Hospital has been committed to the health and safety of the communities we are proud to serve. Since mid-February Mission Hospital has held roughly a dozen bargaining sessions with the union representatives and, in those sessions, the parties have reached more than 30 tentative agreements on topics that the union indicated were of key importance, and which have always been of high importance at Mission Hospital. Those topics include such things as Health & Safety; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the creation of a new Professional Practice Committee.  Despite this progress, we understand that this kind of picketing activity sometimes occurs when a union and an employer are engaged in negotiations for a contract, as we are with this union.  This is merely a form of demonstration that the union is legally allowed to do.  We want the public to be assured that Mission Hospital remains open and continues to provide the quality patient care that Mission Hospital has always provided. We have additional bargaining dates scheduled on June 22 and 25 and look forward to continuing these discussions with the union at that time.”

The Tuesday picket begins at 8 a.m. in front of both the main hospital and the St.  Joseph campus in Asheville.   Last September, Mission RNs voted to join National Nurses Organizing Committee-North Carolina, an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU).

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.