A nurses union reported that 57% of the nurses surveyed at HCA's 11 hospitals in the Kansas City, Mo., area said the quality of care has declined since HCA took over the former Health Midwest system in April 2003. Nurses United for Improved Patient Care, which represents nurses at three of the hospitals, said it distributed more than 2,100 surveys and received 355 responses. Some 65% of the nurses who responded said that they had fewer support workers and 62% said they performed more nonnursing duties since HCA took over. The union said it will push for mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios, added protection for whistleblowers and more disclosure of staffing levels and quality indicators.
Rob Dyer, a Kansas City-area HCA spokesman, said he questioned the validity of a study conducted by the union, rather than by a professional polling agency. HCA has added a net of 132 registered nurses and granted $9 million in raises for nurses since it completed its $1.13 billion purchase of Health Midwest, Dyer said. The hospitals are short six to eight secretaries on patient-care floors as a result of normal turnover, he said, and the positions will be filled. HCA owns or operates 191 hospitals, including seven in 50-50 joint ventures. -- by Vince Galloro