Union accuses HealthOne Denver hospitals of aggressive collections, low staffing

A union of professional healthcare workers has launched a public information campaign alleging aggressive collections and lack of safe staffing at Denver area HealthOne hospitals.

Service Employees International Union said the campaign includes a website and social media advertisements, as well as TV advertisements on CNN, ESPN, MSNBC and other channels.

Union officials claim Denver-based HealthOne, an eight-hospital division of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare, has sued thousands and pursued aggressive collections practices, not ensured that nurses and front-line healthcare workers have enough personal protective equipment during the pandemic, and kept many facilities understaffed. They cite Medicare cost reports, news reports related to debt collection practices and an article by The Denver Post in September in which staff at Thornton, Colo.-based North Suburban Medical Center linked a patient death to understaffing.  

“We feel morally obligated to make people aware about HCA Healthcare HealthOne executives continuing these bad practices amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ron Ruggiero, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 105, which represents healthcare industry workers in Colorado, said in a news release. “Especially given the large profits this company makes in the Denver area market, Colorado patients and healthcare workers should be prioritized by HealthOne and HCA, and right now, that’s not happening.”

HealthOne defended its safety practices and disputed the union’s assertions.

“No outside group takes the health and safety of our workers more seriously than we do, and since day one, our top priority has been to protect them — to keep them safe and keep them employed — so they can best care for our patients. Any suggestion otherwise ignores the extensive work, planning and training we have done to ensure the delivery of high quality care during this pandemic,” said spokesperson Angie Anania in a statement shared with Becker’s.

Her statement said HealthOne Denver area hospitals have been recognized for quality, such as two five-star ratings from CMS for three of its hospitals, and that two HealthOne Denver hospitals are Magnet-designated. 

Ms. Anania said HealthOne also provides hundreds of millions of dollars in community benefit through local, state and federal taxes; charitable contributions to community groups; health education and community health improvement efforts; medical research; charity care; uninsured discounts; and other uncompensated care. She said HealthOne hospitals do not bill patients for care related to COVID-19, have not laid off or furloughed employees due to the pandemic and implemented a pandemic pay program for workers. Additionally, she cited other efforts by HCA, such as providing raises to employees and returning $6 billion in federal COVID-19 aid, and said nursing turnover at HealthOne hospitals is “at an all-time low.”

 

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