TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) expects more than 100 registered nurses to attend a rally at HCA Healthcare’s Tampa office on Thursday.
The union, which represents over 10,000 HCA nurses, said the rally aims “to send a message to management” ahead of upcoming contract negotiations, according to a news release from NNOC/NNU.
“Nurses say their protest is intended to send a message to management about nurse unity and solidarity in the face of mismanagement at their hospitals across the country,” the release stated.
“HCA is the largest hospital system in the United States, so the standards they set have impacts across healthcare in the U.S., which is why nurses are so disturbed by the way they handle their business,” Marissa Lee, RN at HCA Florida Osceola Regional Medical Center in Kissimmee, said in a statement. “When you’re setting standards for the entire industry, you should be continually raising the bar, not digging yourself a deeper hole to bury it in.”
Last month, nurses at HCA Florida Trinity Hospital West raised concerns after the hospital system shuttered its behavioral health unit. Speaking to WFLA, Sue Wegener, a RN who worked in the unit, accused HCA of using Hurricane Idalia as an “excuse” to abruptly shut down the unit, “leaving patients without a critical local resource for behavioral health care.”
The hospital said the closure was due to “a steady decline in behavioral health patients” that happened to coincide with the hurricane.
Earlier this year, doctors at HCA Florida Bayonet Point in Hudson told NBC News they sounded the alarm to management over alleged errors and unsafe working conditions. They claimed the for-profit hospital system’s focus on cost-cutting put patient safety at risk, even as the hospital debuted a new $85 million tower.
The hospital system settled with the National Labor Relations Board in 2022 after Bayonet Point was accused of “engaging in anti-union activity,” according to NBC News.
“When it comes to staffing, when it comes to recruitment and retention, when it comes to all these ridiculous technological schemes that only make it harder for nurses to provide high quality patient care, HCA is failing us and our patients,” Cheryl Rodarmel, RN at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, said in a statement. “We’re so excited to stand alongside our union siblings from HCA hospitals nationwide to let management know we’re standing together through thick and through thin.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for HCA Healthcare said the nurses’ claims are “unfounded.” The full statement can be found below.
Today’s small protest by NNU is no different than their protests against countless health systems across the country. We expect that NNU will continue protesting and making unfounded claims about our hospitals and the quality care that we are proud to provide, especially as we enter negotiations for a new contract, as we will with this labor union next year. We are proud of the excellent care we provide to our patients, which includes earning 338 quality achievements for best in specialty for 2024 from Healthgrades, placing our facilities among the top of all short-term acute care hospitals evaluated.Debra McKell, Director Media Relations, HCA Healthcare
According to NNOC/NNU, the nurses hope Thursday’s rally will inspire management to address their concerns ahead of contract negotiations next year.