Today's NewsTwo nurses fired recently by Community Health Systems (CHS) say they were terminated for speaking out about rampant patient safety problems at the chain’s healthcare facilities.

RNs Veronica Poss and Tim Thomas have been prominent RN public advocates at their respective hospitals in exposing what they describe as serious problems with patient safety, and calling for improvements. Poss was fired on Monday by the CHS Fallbrook, California facility, Thomas on Tuesday from Community Hospital in Watsonville, CA. Approximately 40 nurses in Watsonville held a rally at the hospital CEO’s office to protest Thomas’ termination.

The union representing both nurses, National Nurses United (NNU) filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board against Fallbrook for the termination of Poss and unfair labor practice against Watsonville for harassment and discrimination against Tim Thomas.

The firings are “an attempt to silence any nurses who will speak out about rampant patient care problems in their facilities,” said NNU co-president Jean Ross.

Previous court actions against CHS

The firings occurred less than a week after a U.S. District Court Judge delivered an injunction against a CHS hospital in Ohio ordering it to cease and desist its lawless behavior of repeated illegal discipline and harassment of its RNs, and to reinstate an illegally fired Ohio RN. Last week an administrative law judge also found CHS affiliate Greenbrier Valley Medical Center to have violated federal law when it disciplined a nurse in retaliation for his union activity.
Similar orders have been issued by federal courts in the past few months at Fallbrook, and at CHS’ hospital in Barstow, CA. 

What the nurses did

Poss publically admonished CHS in a television interview in December about CHS’s plan to close the cardiac rehabilitation unit, saying it was a vital service to the senior residents of the area.    
Earlier this month, Poss and Thomas participated in a press conference in Naples, FL outside a shareholders meeting of another big for-profit chain, Health Management Associates, where a vote was being taken to accept a buyout by CHS.

“This action is also an unmistakable message of defiance to the courts and the federal labor board that CHS will persist in their harassment and intimidation of nurses, despite federal sanctions, and a somber warning for communities with CHS hospitals that local management is indifferent to nurses’ warnings about patient safety,” Ross said.
“Many in our community have no idea that our hospital is owned and operated by a for-profit Wall Street corporation, said Tim Thomas, RN. “All across the country nurses like me are losing their careers for speaking on behalf of our patients, and our profession.”  

Largest chain

CHS is the largest hospital chain in the country, with 206 hospitals, mostly in rural communities.

Note: CHS was contacted for a statement. This story will be revised if they provide ISHN with one.