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Nurses to picket Mission Hospital, citing concerns about safety

The labor union representing Mission Hospital nurses said members will picket two hospital facilities in Asheville June 15 to highlight concerns about under-staffing that, they contend, has affected the safety of patient care. The labor action is the latest in a growing fusillade of complaints about the safety and quality of patient care made to regulators and to Asheville Watchdog since for-profit HCA Healthcare took over nonprofit Mission Health in 2019.

In announcing the picket, National Nurses Organizing Committee North Carolina said Mission and St. Joseph hospitals — both owned and operated by HCA — need to make improvements to retain experienced registered nurses (RNs) and recruit new ones. Working conditions at Mission make it hard to attract new recruits, the union committee said. 

Asked to comment on the union’s statement, Nancy Lindell, Director of Public and Media Relations for HCA Healthcare North Carolina Division and Mission Health, said in an emailed statement: “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 including health and safety.

“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,” Lindell wrote. “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.”

In calling for picketing, Mission nurses said hospital management has consistently failed to adhere to its own staffing standards, including nurse to patient ratios.  

“Since HCA purchased our hospital in 2019, the management has cut corners on safe patient care by cutting support staff and violating their own nurse staffing grids,” said Shelby Runkles, a cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit RN at Mission. “With each additional patient, nurses are more prone to make mistakes and the risk of serious complications increases.”

Registered nurses at HCA Mission voted overwhelmingly last September to join National Nurses Organizing Committee-North Carolina, an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU), and are negotiating with HCA Mission on a first collective bargaining agreement. The pickets are scheduled to be at Mission Hospital at 509 Biltmore Avenue and Mission’s St. Joseph Campus at 428 Biltmore Avenue from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. — Barbara Durr

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