BNB14: Must Read Stories

This week, nurses at Regional Medical Center rallied outside the hospital, demanding better working conditions and more staffing and complaining about big profits at the Good Samaritan system’s owner, HCA Healthcare.

At the Oct. 25 rally, nurses accused the hospital of violating state-mandated nurse-to-patient rules, putting patients at risk, and overworking nurses to the point of burnout.

It also leads to nurses being overworked and unable to provide proper care to the growing list of patients under nurses’ care, [a nurse] said. “It's a very scary situation for our patients, and for us.”

Steven Johnson, 66, was expecting to get an infection cut out of his hip flesh and bone at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, Florida, last November. The retired pharmacist had survived colon cancer and was meticulous to avoid contracting covid. He could not have known that, from April through September, 8% of that hospital’s Medicare covid patients were diagnosed with the virus after they were admitted for another concern.

A KHN review of work-safety records, medical literature and interviews with staff at high-spread hospitals points to why the virus took hold: Hospital leaders were slow to appreciate its airborne nature, which made coughing patients hazardous to roommates and staff members, who often wore less-protective surgical masks instead of N95s. Hospitals failed to test every admitted patient, enabled by CDC guidance that leaves such testing to the “discretion of the facility.” Management often failed to inform workers when they'd been exposed to covid and so were at risk of spreading it themselves. As covid crept into Florida in spring 2020, nurse Victoria Holland clashed with managers at Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, where Steven Johnson died.

After 22 months on the job, Good Samaritan Hospital’s Director of Nursing for Women Services Stefanie Sonico has been let go from the San Jose facility.

The Investigative Unit has been uncovering issues within Sonico’s department since June when Los Olivos Women’s Medical Group stopped sending its pregnant patients to Good Samaritan Hospital for deliveries and surgeries after a decades-long partnership. Multiple sources told NBC Bay Area this was due to staffing and other patient care concerns within the labor and delivery unit.

In July, federal health regulators put Good Samaritan Hospital’s Medicare contract on notice saying hospital leaders “failed to ensure nursing services were provided to meet the needs of patients.”

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As HCA tripled their profits in the past quarter, they continue to pay their frontline healthcare workers poverty wages as low as $26,000 a year during a dangerous staffing crisis and global pandemic. Click here to take action!