The Spokesman-Review’s story Operating in the red: Provi­dence Sacred Heart has been losing money since 2016” is incom­plete, misleading, and timed to hurt Spokane nurses who are negoti­ating for a fair contract

December 112019

Spokane, Wash. – In response to the Spokesman-Review’s story of December 10, 2019, Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion released the following statement:

The Spokesman-Review’s story on Provi­dence Sacred Heart finan­cials is incom­plete and misleading. It appears in feeding this data to the paper, Provi­dence intended the timing of this story to inter­fere with a critical bargaining session taking place today,” said Anne Tan Piazza, Senior Director of Strategic Initia­tives at the Washington State Nurses Association.

It’s deeply disap­pointing to see our local paper publish quotes from industry lobby­ists and incom­plete data that helps a major Seattle-based corpo­ra­tion without speaking to the nurses, health profes­sionals and other workers who serve our region’s patients at Sacred Heart,” said KT Raley Jones, a nurse in the Cardiac Inten­sive Care Unit.

According to the Spokesman-Review’s story, Provi­dence Sacred Heart has had net operating losses for the past three years. However, data obtained by the Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion challenges that claim. 

The Spokesman-Review didn’t include all of Sacred Heart’s income from invest­ments and other sources,” Piazza said. When you include all revenue, Sacred Heart made millions in 2016 and 2017. Beyond that, Provi­dence St. Joseph Health, Sacred Heart’s parent corpo­ra­tion, has already earned more than $1 billion in profit in the first half of 2019 alone, far more than enough to cover any operating losses at a single hospital.” 

At the same time, belonging to a larger health system means that more money is leaving the Spokane commu­nity. In 2018, Sacred Heart sent more than $200 million — accounting for 20% of their revenue — to the home office, primarily to cover admin­is­tra­tion, not direct patient care. 

Front­line nurses at Sacred Heart are fighting to keep benefits they’ve earned, and to demand full staffing to ensure patients receive the care they need. Nation­ally, the nurse turnover rate at hospi­tals stands at 19.1% and studies show that between recruiting, training and orienting new nurses, turnover costs the average hospital between $4.4 and $6.9 million per year, or $52,100 per nurse. Cutting benefits and resisting common-sense staffing measures that enhance patient and nurse safety will only lead to higher turnover and costs at Sacred Heart. 

Even the industry lobbyist quoted in the Spokesman-Review pointed out how nurse short­ages drive up costs for hospi­tals,” said Stevie Lynne Krone, a nurse in the Cardiac Medical unit at Sacred Heart. How does Sacred Heart expect to keep highly-quali­fied nurses when corpo­rate CEOs from Seattle are stealing our benefits and refusing to invest in patient care? If they have enough money to give CEO Rod Hochman a 157% raise between 2015 and 2017, and to pour $300 million into their own venture capital firm, they can invest in front­line health care workers like me.”

In the article, a hospital associ­a­tion repre­sen­ta­tive blames the rising number of patients covered by Medicaid and Medicare for hurting hospi­tals’ bottom lines. This is exactly the popula­tion Provi­dence and Sacred Heart profess to serve. Providence’s stated mission is: As expres­sions of God’s healing love, witnessed through the ministry of Jesus, we are stead­fast in serving all, especially those who are poor and vulnerable.”

I take this hospital’s mission of serving the poor and vulner­able very seriously, and give every patient excel­lent care,” said Linda Clanton, an IV Therapy nurse at Sacred Heart. I am appalled that Provi­dence execu­tives would complain about the poor and vulner­able hurting their bottom line. That is the very defin­i­tion of placing profits before patients.”

After corpo­rate manage­ment has refused to meaning­fully address nurses’ concerns for nearly a year, nurses at Provi­dence Sacred Heart voted overwhelm­ingly to autho­rize a strike. On December 11, nurses and managers entered a critical media­tion session to try to avert a strike.