Caregivers gathering at Tenet's Dallas headquarters for a direct appeal to corporate executives for safer staffing to end the decade's longest nurse strike.
A delegation of workers from a Tenet Healthcare hospital in Southern California will join striking Massachusetts St. Vincent Hospital nurses at noon CDT Wednesday to take their complaints directly to Tenet's executives in Dallas and deliver a 16-foot signed petition to Tenet CEO Ronald Rittenmeyer.
Caregivers from Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, Orange County's largest for-profit hospital, said their departments are under-staffed and lack the resources to adequately provide for patients. Many employees, they said, cannot afford health coverage.
"St. Vincent isn't the only Tenet hospital that is dangerously understaffed and under-resourced," said Jasmine Nguyen, a pharmacy technician at Fountain Valley Regional, who is planning to be in Dallas Wednesday. "We're always understaffed and our patients are left waiting too long for their medications."
Early in the pandemic, Fountain Valley caregivers, represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW), accused the administration of understaffing and refusing to properly isolate COVID-19 patients.
Responding to a NUHW complaint, the California Department of Public Health last year issued a 33-page report last year that described "systemic" infection control violations, including failure to isolate COVID-19 patients in designated COVID-19 units.
Congresswomen Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., referenced the report in a May 21 letter asking the Biden Administration to investigate whether Tenet and other major hospital companies used federal COVID-19 relief funds to bankroll mergers and acquisitions.
NUHW members picketed Fountain Valley Regional as well as nearby Tenet hospitals in Los Alamitos and Lakewood, Calif., in June to support the congresswomen's request for a federal investigation.
In a June 15 letter supporting that request for a federal investigation, NUHW president Sal Rosselli noted that Tenet ended 2020 with a $399 million net profit and $2.5 billion in cash reserves, more than double its cash balance in any quarter during the past 10 years. The company also purchased 45 surgery centers from SurgCenter Development for $1.1 billion and used nearly $500 million in cash to pre-pay debt not due for four years.
"There is ample evidence to suggest that Tenet Healthcare used COVID-relief funds to improperly expand its business, enrich its executives and shareholders, and prioritize the company's bottom line over patients and caregivers," Rosselli wrote.
NUHW also is demanding that Tenet stop subcontracting housekeepers and food service workers, leaving many without health insurance during the pandemic.
“We're always understaffed, and our patients are left waiting too long for their medications.”
Jasmine Nguyen, pharmacy technician, Fountain Valley Regional Hospital
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
Photo credit: Piotr Swat / Shutterstock.com
Employees charge that Tenet Healthcare used taxpayer COVID-relief funds to prioritize the company's bottom line over patients and caregivers.
Southern California Tenet Healthcare employees will join striking Massachusetts nurses at the company's headquarters to deliver their demands.
The Massachusetts Nurses Association strike against Tenet is in its fourth month.