LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A union report that blasts “systemic low staffing” at HCA hospitals nationwide says that staffing levels at HCA’s Nevada hospitals is 34% lower than the national average.

That’s putting patients in danger, the union said. A news release announcing the report said nurses and frontline workers have witnessed short-staffing that jeopardized patient care.

Nationwide, HCA hospitals are staffed 30% below the national average, the report said. The report is based on Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data released in 2021.

Now, nurses are calling on HCA to raise staffing levels, improve pay and prioritize higher-quality patient care.

The report was produced by the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in North America. About 1 million nurses and other health care workers make up about half of the union’s nationwide membership. Local 1107’s total membership in Nevada is about 19,000 — 4,600 in health care jobs — according to an SEIU spokesperson.

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. (Greg Haas / 8NewsNow)

The 77-page report was released to coincide with a protest Thursday in Los Angeles that included SEIU members from four states including Nevada.

HCA — Hospital Corporation of America — operates Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, MountainView Hospital and Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center.

A statement issued by the Sunrise Health System released at 5 p.m. criticized SEIU’s tactics in releasing the report as a regular cycle of bargaining is about to begin.

“The SEIU has a history of attacking and bullying community hospitals with cleverly-packaged, misleading information and staged events designed to garner media coverage. The labor union’s report cherry picked the CMS cost report data that supported its narrative and simply ignored the data that did not,” the statement said. See the full text of the Sunrise Health System’s statement at the bottom of this story.

The report linked staffing levels to burnout.

“We want to be the best nurses possible, but we are not being given the staffing and resources to give our patients the care they need and deserve,” said Jody Domineck, a registered nurse in the pediatrics department at an HCA hospital in Las Vegas for over 16 years.”

Domineck said staffing levels force “impossible, gut-wrenching choices.”

“Do I rush to the kid having trouble breathing, or help the kid who desperately needs more pain medication? It feels like playing a frantic game of medical whack-a-mole, running from the most threatening crisis to the next. Some days we sit in the car at the end of our shift and cry, because it’s so demoralizing when you do everything you can and it’s still not enough. HCA needs to protect us so we can continue to protect our patients,” Domineck said.

Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. (Greg Haas / 8NewsNow)

The union points to HCA’s $7 billion in profits in 2021, and says wages are inadequate.

“We’re so short-staffed in the operating room and throughout the entire hospital that workers are severely burned out,” said Erika Watanabe, a certified surgical technician at an HCA hospital in Las Vegas for 18 years.

Watanabe said she’s had to work 19 hours straight because of short-staffing. “There are patient care techs getting 18 patients per shift. That is just not fair to workers or the patients we’re caring for,” she said.

“Despite all the hardships, we’ve shown up for our community and our hospital throughout the pandemic. Now HCA needs to show up for us,” Watanabe said.


Sunrise Health System statement:

“At Sunrise Health System, we believe a strong culture of respect and collaboration among our colleagues is critical to our mission. We value all members of our care teams and we provide a safe environment for our patients. 

We strongly disagree with the SEIU’s allegations. The SEIU has a history of attacking and bullying community hospitals with cleverly-packaged, misleading information and staged events designed to garner media coverage. The labor union’s report cherry picked the CMS cost report data that supported its narrative and simply ignored the data that did not.

The reality is, against the backdrop of a national nursing shortage, exacerbated by a pandemic and continuing patient surges, our staffing is safe, appropriate, and in line with other community hospitals and applicable regulations.

Our hospitals are proud to have received many recent recognitions from Healthgrades including each one being recognized as one of the Top 250 hospitals in the country. We live our mission each day, committing to the care and improvement of human life. Serving the greater Las Vegas community and surrounding states, that translates to nearly 900,000 patient visits annually.

We expect a variety of labor union tactics like this as we are set to begin our regular cycle of bargaining with the labor union in the near future.

— Sunrise Health System