Workers at 30 HCA Healthcare hospitals in multiple states demonstrated on Friday, advocating for progress in contract negotiations and higher quality patient care.
The day of action, conducted by SEIU Healthcare members, marked the expiration of a union contract covering 3,000 HCA workers in California. Contracts for another 19,000 workers at HCA-owned hospitals in Florida, Nevada, Texas and Kansas are set to expire by September.
At HCA’s Riverside Community Hospital in southern California, clinicians picketed, demanding the system address issues of low staffing and patient safety and claiming HCA has not made significant headway in negotiating a new agreement that benefits staff and patients.
“Today’s day of action is all about safe staffing and patient care,” said Raymond Valdivia, a lab assistant and phlebotomist at the hospital in Riverside, California and a SEIU union leader. “We’re out here so HCA and Riverside Community Hospital listen to our requests when it comes to staffing ratios, better supplies and equipment that we need so we can take care of patients.”
Increasing staffing levels to meet hospital needs is also the main focus of contract negotiations, he said.
Even with the national nursing shortage, the health system always strives to reach agreements that are in the best interest of caregivers and patients, and has compensation and staffing levels in line with regulations and practices at other community hospitals, HCA said in an email statement.
“The SEIU has a history of attacking and bullying community hospitals with misleading information and staged events,” HCA said. “We expect a variety of deceptive labor union tactics like this as we continue our regular cycle of bargaining with the labor union.”
The push for improvement from union members comes amid allegations of patient safety issues and potential Medicare fraud at the health system.
The Health and Human Services Department is reviewing a letter from U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and the SEIU that claimed HCA forces its doctors to meet unofficial quotas for the number of patients admitted to the hospital.
In March, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to the CEO of HCA Florida Bayonet Point Hospital in Hudson, Florida, asking the facility’s leadership to address reports of unsanitary and unsafe practices.