ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Nurses with three HCA hospitals gathered Wednesday evening to voice concerns about what they said are unsafe conditions for patients and staff at three of its facilities: St. Petersburg General Hospital, Largo Medical Center, and Northside Hospital.

What You Need To Know

  • Nurses at 3 HCA hospitals concerned over unsafe conditions: understaffing, inadequate PPE, improper isolation

  • Three facilities are: St. Pete General Hospital, Largo Medical Center, Northside Hospital

  • Nurses site being ignored, intimidated, harassed when speaking up about unsafe conditions

  • Complaints against all 3 hospitals have been filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration

"We are here to speak up against unsafe practices during this pandemic, the fact that nurses are being ignored, the fact that when they speak up, they are being harassed and intimidated," said Martin Peebles, Largo Medical Center's chief nurse representative.

"I'm here speaking out against unsafe staffing," said Cassandra Hoffman, also a nurse at Largo.

"They are not routinely testing the nurses," said Barbara Murray, who said she worked as a nurse at St. Pete General until Friday. "I know a lot of nursing homes are testing their staff every two weeks. Here, even if you had symptoms, they just tell you to monitor your temp."

Murray said she was fired Friday. While she said the reason she was given was insubordination, she said her termination came after she raised concerns about being assigned to care for seven non-COVID patients. Murray said the normal limit is five patients.

"I would not be able to get my medications out in time or do my assessments or make sure that all the patients stayed alive during the day," Murray said of what that workload would mean.

"Although I can't speak about individual employees, I can tell you that we are actually soliciting feedback from our staff. We had a safety survey that went out," said HCA West Florida Division Chief Nurse Executive Leanne Salazar.

Salazar said a safety task force was created to respond to needs highlighted by the survey. She said HCA executives are also seeking out in-person input.

"I'm rounding on the floors, asking frontline caregivers what they need, how do we make them feel more safe," Salazar said.

When it comes to staffing, Salazar said HCA is working to bring in 300 traveling nurses from across the country, as well as 58 rapid response nurses. She said they're also partnering with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to bring 120 nurses to the Pinellas County area. As for PPE, she said each hospital is continually monitoring and restocking its supply.

"I do think it's safe," she said of HCA's hospitals. "I do think we're all under pressure and we're navigating this uncharted territory, but we will persevere and we will get through it together. It's just important that we hear the voices. If there's any innovative ideas or things that we can do, we want to do them."

Peebles said what nurses want is exactly that — for HCA to listen.

"That they start listening to nurses and start holding the staffing meetings that we've been requesting ever since this whole thing began. Those are a routine procedure for handling nursing concerns," he said.

National Nurses United said an affiliate, National Nurses Organizing Committee - Florida, has filed complaints about all three hospitals with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.