KC-Area Nurses Rally for Better Contracts, Negotiations Begins With HCA

HCA nurses rallied Tuesday morning for better contracts in the midst of poor working conditions and chronic understaffing.

Posted March 12, 2024

Updated 2:40 p.m., March 13, 2024

Nurses at Research Medical Center and Menorah Medical Center rallied together Tuesday morning as new union contract negotiations with Hospital Corporation of America begin.

Current contracts for registered nurses under the HCA system are set to expire on May 31.

National Nurses United (NNU), a union representing nurses at the two hospitals, cited poor working conditions and chronic understaffing at both Research Medical Center and Menorah Medical Center, according to a release by NNU.

“As nurses who are committed to our patients, we will always put patients over profits,” Jake Liston, RN at Research Medical Center, said in the release. “We are going into these contract negotiations to demand HCA act on our concerns, address the chronic staffing issues, and do better by our patients and our community.”

In 2023, 89 nurses left Menorah and 150 nurses left Research, according to the union. As a result of the loss of staff, nurses are being siphoned from one hospital unit, particularly in the Intensive Care Unit, to assist another. With staff being stretched thin across the hospital, nurses in the ICU are left to care for up to three patients. The standard care for an RN is typically two patients.

In a statement released before the rally by HCA, the healthcare system said it has stabilized its workforce thanks to the addition of 842 new staff hires at both hospitals.

“Additionally, we are building our nursing pipeline and recently announced a comprehensive $34.5 million investment in Research College of Nursing from HCA Healthcare. An activity like this sometimes occurs when a union and an employer are engaged in negotiations for a contract, as we are with NNU,” according to the statement.

Nurses are also concerned HCA management is transferring new ER patients from neighboring ERs, raising the patient count, and failing to address the staffing shortages.

In a survey conducted by NNU, the organization found 68 percent of nurses said they lacked the staffing coverage to take their meal and rest breaks, 84 percent said their assignments and responsibilities had increased in recent years and 72 percent said patient care quality had decreased.