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 11, 2019

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.