Health Corporation of America (HCA), the largest hospital corporation in the United States, faces staff shortages that put patients at risk, according to Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the union representing the hospital workers.
The shortages are not due to financial issues, according to the union, but to the corporation’s desire to increase profits and minimize costs at the expense of patient safety. A study published in January 2023 by SEIU found staffing ratios at HCA Hospitals in 2020 were significantly lower than state averages in 19 of 20 states where HCA operates facilities and 30% lower than national averages.
Workers contacted by the Guardian said the corporation had the money to fix staffing issues. HCA spent $8 billion on stock buybacks and reported a profit of about $7 billion in 2021 and $5.6 billion in 2022, while many HCA workers are paid less than $15 an hour. From 2011 to 2021, HCA paid out $4.9 billion in dividends to shareholders and spent $26.9 billion on stock buybacks.
The problem has become particularly acute in Florida’s bay area where the HCA hospitals serve a larger percentage of elderly patients.
In a survey conducted by SEIU in January 2022 of 1,500 nurses in HCA hospitals, 89% agreed short staffing is compromising patient care at their hospitals. Among HCA workers surveyed in Florida, 47% reported wanting to leave their job due to burnout.
Penny Ceasar, a unit secretary at HCA Florida Westside Hospital in Plantation, Florida, since 2008, described chronic understaffing at her hospital, low and stagnant wages and high turnover that have deteriorated working conditions and patient care.
This is what happens when large corporations are in charge of healthcare and prioritize profits over people. A recent article in the Tampa Bay Times highlights the problem. According to the Times’ article, “A patient at HCA Florida Blake Hospital in Bradenton had two bowel movements in bed because nurses and other workers were too busy to take him to the bathroom.
At HCA Florida Citrus Hospital in Citrus County, medical technicians failed to monitor the vital signs of a patient admitted in 2019 with an irregular heartbeat. When a nurse finally checked in, the patient was dead.
A similar tragedy was discovered at HCA Florida South Tampa when a 2021 federal review found that a technician remotely monitoring a patient’s vital signs did not alert anyone to a life-threatening heart rhythm change. The patient died.”
The problems described here are not related to tort reform as many of our state politicians like to argue. Rather, corporate greed and a breach of the public trust is to blame. If you or a family member has been injured or suffered loss of life at an HCA hospital in Florida please contact us for a free and confidential evaluation of your claim. 727-579-4500.
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