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Van Wey, Metzler & Williams

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6 minutes read

For Profit Hospitals: A Look at HCA Healthcare’s Business Practices

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Understaffing and Overworked Nurses

The High Cost of Hospital Profitability

HCA Healthcare, the largest operator of for profit hospitals in the United States, is a behemoth in the healthcare industry. They are well capitalized, with a market value that soars to an impressive $88.6 billion. This financial powerhouse operates 179 hospitals across 19 states, boasting a stock increase of over 358 percent in a year. 

These numbers are commendable from a business perspective. Nevertheless, important questions have been raised about the underlying practices contributing to this success.

Balancing Revenue and Patient Care at HCA’s For Profit Hospitals

Critics, including healthcare professionals from within HCA’s own facilities, argue that the corporation’s financial achievements are often at the expense of adequate staffing and essential resources. This concern is echoed in allegations of deliberate understaffing to maximize profitability. Consequently, this unfortunate strategy has led to legal action and staff departures due to untenable working conditions.

A deeper dive into HCA’s operations by sources like Barron’s reveals a pattern of practices that prioritize cost-cutting over patient safety. This approach, unfortunately, is not unique to HCA but is particularly noticeable within its network due to the sheer scale of its operations.

The Risks of Understaffed Hospitals

The implications of understaffing in hospitals are well-documented. Studies consistently show that lower nurse-to-patient ratios lead to higher instances of patient mortality, longer hospital stays, and increased rates of hospital-acquired infections. 

For example, research published in the Journal of Nursing Administration, JAMA and The Lancet highlights the critical impact of nurse staffing levels on patient outcomes and hospital efficiency.

Specifically, data suggests that every additional patient per nurse increases the likelihood of patient mortality by 7%. This statistic is alarming and indicates a direct correlation between staffing levels and patient safety.

HCA’s Track Record

Regulatory bodies have repeatedly flagged HCA facilities for staffing deficiencies that jeopardize patient safety. Additionally, as reported by NBC, a union study reported that HCA staffing levels were below the average in the states where they provide care. 

Reports from federal inspections at various HCA hospitals across Texas have outlined significant lapses that resulted in delayed care and other safety violations. This underscores the need for regulatory compliance and internal reforms.

Highlighted HCA Facilities with Noted Issues:

  • HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake
  • HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood
  • HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest
  • HCA Houston Healthcare Southeast
  • HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball
  • HCA Houston Healthcare West
  • Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare
  • Woman’s Hospital of Texas
  • Corpus Christi Medical Center

Selective Reporting 

Often, individuals never think about being hospitalized until they become ill or are involved in an accident. However, even when someone is proactive and looks into a particular hospital, the critical data needed to make an informed decision may not be available.

For example, offers hospital safety ratings, accessible for a nominal fee. Their reports include a comprehensive assessment of the healthcare facility in question. However, these ratings are largely based on self-reported data, which can present a skewed perspective of a hospital’s actual performance. For instance, when evaluating HCA hospitals, one might initially be impressed by an “A” safety grade. 

Yet, a closer examination of the details often reveals a concerning omission: Approximately 95% of the time, HCA hospitals opt not to report critical metrics such as “nursing care force” and “nursing hours per patient day.” This selective reporting can obscure the reality of hospital staffing levels, potentially misleading patients about the true quality of care and artificially maintaining higher safety grades by excluding less favorable data.

Patient Safety – Prioritizing Patients Over Profit

The evidence clearly supports a direct link between adequate hospital staffing and improved patient outcomes. As such, it is crucial for HCA and similar for profit hospitals to reevaluate their operational strategies. Moreover, it’s imperative to ensure they do not compromise patient care for profitability. Healthcare is a right, not a luxury, and institutions must hold themselves to the highest standards of care and safety. 

The healthcare community, alongside regulatory agencies and dedicated legal advocates like Van Wey, Metzler & Williams, must persistently champion policies that prioritize patient well-being over corporate profits. We believe in holding healthcare providers accountable through advocacy and litigation. This allows us to help ensure that patient safety is never compromised by financial motives. 

Together, we work towards a healthcare environment where patient care is paramount and everyone receives the high standard of medical treatment they deserve.

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