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North Carolina Attorney General Sues HCA Healthcare Over Alleged Service Lapses at Mission Health

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Ethan Sulliva
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North Carolina Attorney General Sues HCA Healthcare Over Alleged Service Lapses at Mission Health

North Carolina Attorney General Sues HCA Healthcare Over Alleged Service Lapses at Mission Health

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North Carolina's Attorney General, Josh Stein, is taking legal action against HCA Healthcare. The lawsuit alleges that the for-profit hospital chain has degraded the formerly nonprofit Mission Health, leading to lapses in essential medical services. The main complaints involve HCA's alleged failure to provide promised emergency and cancer care, along with unsafe conditions, low staffing, and high turnover rates since its takeover in 2019.

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Details of the Lawsuit

The lawsuit follows an investigation into ongoing issues at Mission Hospital since HCA took over. Stein's legal action seeks to declare that HCA breached its asset purchase agreement and insists on the issuance of a permanent injunction. Additionally, Stein wants to compel HCA to restore emergency and cancer services to the level they were prior to 2019. Despite these accusations, HCA remains confident that it continues to meet its obligations under the asset purchase agreement and intends to defend the lawsuit vigorously.

Impact of Health System Mergers

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This legal action comes in the wake of increasing concerns about the ripple effects of healthcare system acquisitions and mergers. Mergers and acquisitions can often lead to changes in the provision of services, staffing levels, and the overall quality of care. These changes can significantly impact patients, particularly in areas where healthcare options are limited. The lawsuit is filed in Buncombe County Superior Court.

Allegations of Service Discontinuation

The lawsuit goes further to allege that HCA discontinued emergency and trauma services at Mission Hospital. This resulted in the hospital no longer qualifying as a Level II trauma center. There are also claims of shortcomings related to staffing, wait times, bed shortages, and medical transport services. HCA has responded to these claims, expressing confidence in meeting its obligations and defending against the lawsuit.

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Staff and Patient Concerns

The lawsuit underscores severe shortcomings at the Western North Carolina facility, including lengthy wait times, bed shortages, patients being treated in public areas, and understaffing in the emergency department. The union representing Mission nurses has filed hundreds of complaints with HCA and state and federal regulators documenting unsafe staffing and working conditions affecting patient care since the acquisition.

Calls for Restoration of Services

Stein has asked the court to order HCA to restore emergency and trauma services and oncology services to the level Mission Hospital provided before HCA took over. Nurses and staff at Mission are protesting HCA's handling of staffing issues. Amid these concerns, the independent monitor's most recent findings are from 2022, and the findings for 2023 won't be released until the spring of next year.

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