• August 2, 2021

As nurses strike, U.S. lawmakers demand particulars into Tenet’s COVID-19 grants

Jul 2, 2021

4 Massachusetts Democratic lawmakers are demanding that Tenet Healthcare disclose the way it spent COVID-19 aid funds, accusing the well being system of enriching its executives and shareholders as an alternative of supporting its suppliers and communities.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Edward Markey, Rep. Jim McGovern and Rep. Lori Trahan blast the corporate for accepting federal cash whereas shortchanging its staff, together with nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, who at present are on strike.

“The obvious greed of Tenet Healthcare throughout an unprecedented public well being emergency and financial disaster is astounding, notably in gentle of the billions in taxpayer help acquired by your organization, and the continued failure to handle the issues of its frontline well being care staff,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter despatched to Tenet CEO Ron Rittenmeyer on Tuesday.

The legislators gave the Dallas-based hospital chain till July 13 reply to detailed questions on its use of Supplier Aid Fund (PRF) grants and different state and federal help throughout the pandemic.

The St. Vincent Hospital strike, now in its fourth month, is proof that Tenet is just not assembly the wants of its workers and sufferers throughout the disaster, Warren, Markey, McGovern and Trahan wrote.

The Massachusetts Nurses Affiliation (MNA) this week rejected the hospital’s newest provide as a result of it did not meet what the union says are “desperately wanted” staffing will increase.

MNA despatched a counter proposal to the hospital via a mediator, however hasn’t but gotten a response, mentioned Marlena Pellegrino, a registered nurse at St. Vincent and co-chair of the union’s St. Vincent bargaining unit.

“We hope that they may take our provide meaningfully and get this strike settled,” Pellegrino mentioned.

Tenet’s nurse staffing is best than 75% of comparable hospitals in Massachusetts, spokesperson Lesley Bogdanow mentioned in a press release. Each St. Vincent nurse who went on furlough throughout the pandemic did so by alternative, she mentioned. Tenet’s contract provide included larger wages, enhanced advantages, elevated staffing and tighter hospital safety, she mentioned.

Tenet spent $936 million in Supplier Aid Fund grants via March 31.

Of their letter, the lawmakers took problem with Tenet’s greater than $3 billion in earnings earlier than revenue, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2020.

Not like its extra worthwhile friends, nevertheless, Tenet would have posted a large web loss in 2020 if not for PRF grants. Tenet’s full-year web revenue was $399 million, together with the grants. The corporate generated $17.6 billion in working income.

HCA Healthcare, against this, posted nearly $4 billion in web revenue and $51.5 billion in income in 2020. A number of unions have referred to as out the Nashville-based hospital chain throughout the pandemic, alleging an absence of funding in sufficient staffing and security measures.

Warren and her colleagues aren’t the primary to demand accountability for PRF grant spending. Democratic Reps. Katie Porter (Calif.) and Rosa Delauro (Conn.) wrote to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and then-acting Federal Commerce Fee Chairperson Rebecca Slaughter in Might.

The lawmakers expressed concern that well being techniques, together with Tenet, have been utilizing the cash to fund acquisitions. Tenet introduced plans in December to spend $1.1 billion to purchase as much as 45 ambulatory surgical procedure facilities, and it intends to additional develop that portfolio all year long.

St. Vincent Hospital nurses filed greater than 710 “unsafe staffing” reviews because the starting of 2020, which warn of circumstances that jeopardize affected person security, Warren and the others wrote of their letter. On the similar time, they assert that Tenet has aggressively lower prices, together with slashing hospital spending by 11% between April and June 2020.

Along with a listing of all pandemic-related help Tenet acquired, the lawmakers request an accounting of how Tenet spent the cash and whether or not it has any unspent grant cash acquired earlier than June 30, 2020. June 30, 2021 was the deadline to return any unspent PRF {dollars} acquired earlier than June 30, 2020, regardless of hospitals’ pleas for extra time to spend the funds.

The lawmakers additionally need an evidence of how Tenet transferred grant funding between its subsidiaries, a maneuver that allowed it to spend about $100 million of that cash within the fourth quarter. Lastly, they’re asking for an entire account of Rittenmeyer’s whole compensation.

Tenet does not agree with lots of the statements and characterizations within the lawmakers’ letter, however “will in fact reply appropriately,” Bodangow mentioned.

“The problems raised on this letter aren’t correct when it comes to our compliance with the phrases of use of the CARES Act aid funds,” Tenet’s assertion mentioned.

The MNA, which represents 800 nurses on the hospital, mentioned in a press release that nurses on St. Vincent’s medical-surgical flooring and telemetry flooring have been assigned 5 sufferers at a time over the previous two years, which it mentioned is harmful. Within the emergency division, MHA mentioned it is not unusual for nurses to be assigned 5 and 6 sufferers concurrently.

The union is looking for a restrict of 4 sufferers directly, permitting for 5 solely when it’s warranted. Additionally they demand the hospital employees extra emergency division nurses. The nurses additionally desire a “useful resource nurse” on each flooring who manages affected person circulation, responds to surprising affected person will increase and assists wherever essential.

“This would offer the nurses the wanted flexibility to guarantee the project matches the affected person’s wants and the flexibility for the nurse to fulfill these wants safely and successfully,” MHA mentioned in a press release.

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