HCA Healthcare nurses protest alleged layoff threats

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – HCA Healthcare workers across Tampa Bay are protesting after they say HCA threatened to lay off employees and cut their pay.

Protests swept the streets of several area hospitals Thursday and Friday as nurses reacted to layoff and pay cut claims. Nurses will conduct a socially distant protest at St. Petersburg General Hospital at 11 a.m.

HCA Healthcare owns 15 hospitals in its West Florida division along the state’s Gulf Coast. Many nurses are represented by the National Nurses United Union, one of the largest unions in the healthcare industry. Union representatives say HCA hospitals across six different states are facing layoffs and pay cuts.

According to NNU, RNs at many HCA hospitals also continue to be at risk due to inadequate provision of optimal personal protective equipment in the face of a still raging pandemic.

“After nurses have put their lives on the line to protect HCA patients, it defies belief that HCA, which has widely failed to provide the protection nurses need, wants to further punish them with layoffs and other cuts,” said Malinda Markowitz, RN, National Nurses United Vice President and longtime HCA RN.

Thursday, nurses from Blake Medical Center in Bradenton protested. One nurse tells 8 On Your Side the idea of laying off and cutting nurses pay during this pandemic not only impacts the employees, but also, the patients.

‘We have staffing forms we feel out anytime anytime nurses feel like their assignment is unsafe for their patients. These are all the forms since January, so that’s a lot of shift we have been running short. The hospital has their guidelines of ratios they should be following, but they aren’t following those guidelines in a lot of cases. It transfers over to patient care. “

HCA’s West Florida Division Marketing Director, Debra McKell told 8 On Your Side the company has not laid off or furloughed any caregivers or employees yet.

“That has been our goal and remains our goal,” McKell said. “We have no plans to lay off or furlough anyone.”

McKell sent the following statement on behalf of HCA:

At a time when hospitals across the country are struggling to survive and many are resorting to furloughs and layoffs, it is surprising and frankly disappointing that unions would demand pay raises for their members and may reject the continuation of a generous pay program that is providing continued paychecks for more the 100,000 colleagues.

The goal of HCA Healthcare’s pandemic pay program is to keep our caregivers employed and receiving paychecks at a time when hospitals throughout the country are experiencing significant declines in patient volume and there is not enough work for them. More than 16,000 union members have benefited from this program, even though it is not part of their contract. The program was initially slated to last until May 16 and has been extended through June 27. 

We are maintaining our focus on keeping as many of our colleagues employed as we can, despite the lower volumes. Colleagues elsewhere in the organization are forgoing wage increases, and executive leadership, corporate and division colleagues and hospital CEOs, CFO,s CMOs, CNOs, and COOs have taken pay cuts.While the union appears to be focused on pay raises for some, our priority is on all our colleagues and their families.

As a response, HCA’s Southern Region Director Bradley Van Waus sent the following statement:

We believe that it is unconscionable that HCA would demand pay cuts and reductions in benefit standards while Registered Nurses struggle to provide care for patients in your hospitals, often without proper personal protective equipment. Nurses who work for the wealthiest and largest hospital corporation should not have to fight to obtain appropriate masks, gowns, and gloves. This company has touted its “robust” supply chain, yet the supply chain doesn’t always lead to front line caregivers. Since January, nurses have attempted to engage the hospitals in discussions about COVID preparations, warned the hospitals about safety lapses, and made dozens of recommendations to improve safety for RNs. The facilities have either ignored RNs or minimized their concerns. If this is what it means to #carelikefamily, nurses are not feeling the love.

During the course of our conversation, no claim was made that the company was broke. In fact, you only stated that the company wished to reduce labor costs. It is well known that HCA has received over $700 million in grants and over $4 billion in accelerated payments from the CARES Act. We can only assume that the company intends to redistribute those labor costs along with this bailout into the pockets of its investors. Additionally, HCA has made over $25 billion in profits over the last decade. This company is far from broke. It’s hunger for profit knows no bounds and unfortunately has no shame.

Therefore, CNA and NNOC will decline your offer to accept reductions to our contractually agreed upon wages and benefit standards. Instead, we will enforce our current contracts to the full extent possible. Never doubt the resolve of the nurses to advocate for their patients and profession.

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