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Large crowd shows up for nurses demonstration in front of Mission Hospital

By Kristy Kepley-Steward & Lauren Brigman

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Tuesday morning, dozens joined in front of Mission Hospital in Asheville to express concerns about safe staffing and improvements they say the hospital needs, to retain and recruit experienced registered nurses.

The demonstration, organized by National Nurses United (NNC) was held on the corner of Biltmore Avenue and Hospital Drive on June 15, starting at 8 a.m.

In a press release, organizers said Mission Hospital RNs would be gathering to “alert the public about persistent problems about safe staffing, including what they say are hospital management’s consistent failure to adhere to its own staffing standards.”

Negotiations are underway for a new nurses union contract, with the next meetings scheduled for June 22 and 25, 2021.

Nurses News 13 spoke with told us there are a lot of great outcomes at Mission Hospital and they want the community to continue choosing Mission for their care. The staff emphasized their dedication to their patients and to the community.

“We want them to come close to home and get the care that they need and know that we are on their side and know that we are acting in their best interest because that is truly what our mission is, is to take care of people,” said Trauma Operations Supervisor Jen Burleson.

“A lot of nurses have left because they can’t do what HCA expects them to do as far as, morally and ethically… to be able to not provide the care that they give and just to be able to- it risks their license,” said nurse negotiator for the union contract, Kelly Graham.

“We’re always seeking to bring more nurses on board,” said Burleson. Adding that a new nursing school in Buncombe County will help to fill the gap.

Last September, 70% of Mission RNs voted in favor of joining the National Nurses Organizing Committee-North Carolina, an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU) and are currently engaged in talks with hospital officials on a collective bargaining contract.

“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 ICU RN at Mission. “The hospital needs to commit to stricter compliance with its own staffing grids. With each additional patient, nurses are more prone to make mistakes and the risk of serious complications increases.”

Additionally, some RNs say they are concerned about staffing support to be able to take meal and rest breaks without leaving their patients without proper care.

“Missing meal breaks during a 12-hour shifts means we are not well rested and may be more prone to make mistakes,” said Amy Waters, a pediatric ICU RN. “Rest breaks are critical to ensuring safe care for our patients,” said Waters.

Mission Hospital spokesperson, Nancy Lindell provided a statement to News 13 saying,

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 that the union indicated were of key importance, and which have always been of high importance at Mission Hospital. Those topics include such things as Health & Safety; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the creation of a new Professional Practice Committee. 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. 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. We have additional bargaining dates scheduled on June 22 and 25 and look forward to continuing these discussions with the union at that time.

National Nurses Organizing Committee said it represents 1,800 nurses at Mission. Overall, NNU, the largest U.S. union of RNs, represents more than 175,000 nurses across the country.

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