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‘We’re Hemorrhaging Nurses’: Charleston Veterans Affairs’ Hospital Stares Down Protest

“It seems hopeless at this point …”

Nurses at the Ralph H. Johnson veterans’ medical center in Charleston, South Carolina were planning to protest last Friday – Veterans’ Day – over “increasing patient safety concerns” at the facility. Inclement weather disrupted their plans, but the issues they are raising still gained traction.

Reporter Forrest Tucker of WCBD TV-2 (NBC – Charleston, S.C.) covered the planned protest during a newscast last Thursday.

“We honestly feel like we are just nothing,” one nurse told Tucker on condition of anonymity. “We have been working mandatory overtime for a year-and-a-half. We’re tired. We’re hemorrhaging nurses.”

The Charleston hospital is part of the scandal-scarred U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – a socialized medicine system which was embroiled in controversy during the administration of former president Barack Obama over its negligence in caring for America’s veterans.

Now, nurses are alleging substandard care is making a comeback due to chronic nursing shortages.


“Nurses at the Charleston VA are leaving in record numbers due to concerns of insufficient staffing and underfunding, jeopardizing the ability to provide adequate care for our valued veterans,” a flyer promoting the planned protest noted. “Leadership at the VA is demanding the nurses take more patient responsibility and ancillary duties. VA nurses’ concerns must be addressed to generate better outcomes for our nation’s heroes.”

According to one nurse, the current vacancy rate at the facility – including filled positions waiting for new nurses to be onboarded – stands at 44.6 percent for surgery and intensive care units. The rate for the hospital’s mental health facilities is 30 percent.

“We want to bring attention to an administration that is ruining our hospital,” one nurse told me. “Putting our licenses on the line with poor staffing levels. Putting our veterans at risk and increasing the chances that a nurse will make a mistake because they are tired and have too many patients.”

As if the vacancy numbers weren’t bad enough, nurses told me the hospital leadership “instills fear among the staff to keep them quiet.”

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“Everyone is scared,” one nurse said. “We live in fear of retaliation. It’s a mob mentality – the leadership breeds a culture of fear through the use of intimidation and scare tactics. It’s an extremely sad and desperate situation. And it seems hopeless at this point.”

“These are the real reasons behind the rally,” the nurse continued. “We are tired. We are mad. We’ve had enough. While the leadership continues to line their pockets, the nurses are working short staffed with no relief in sight.”

This news outlet reached out to Wayne Capps, the hospital’s director of stakeholder relations, for comment on the protest.

“VA nurses have served on the front lines of veteran care, ensuring that each patient receives the quality health care and services they have earned and deserve,” Capps told me. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our nurses have worked tirelessly to provide the compassionate care VA nurses are known for. VA could not be more proud of their individual and collective contributions and sacrifices. We are vigorously pursuing multiple actions necessary to recruit and retain our nursing workforce. These actions, pursued across the nation and at the department level, are intended to address the concerns of VA nursing.”


According to Capps, nurses at the facility are “paid 28 percent more than their peers on average locally.”

“We also offer benefits such as health care, student loan repayment, bonuses and comparative paid time off,” Capps said.

Nursing turnover rates at the Charleston facility have ranged from 5.9 to 12.9 percent over the past two years, according to Capps – “less than half the national average of 27.1 percent.”

Capps concluded that the Charleston facility “meets all quality of care and patient safety standards and Charleston VA is also one of only two medical facilities in the state rated as a five-star facility for patient satisfaction.”

The nurse protest was scheduled for last Friday (November 11, 2022) between 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EST on the sidewalk in front of the hospital, which is located at 109 Bee Street in downtown Charleston.

Protesting nurses had planned to wear red.

Organizers of the event tell this news outlet they plan to reschedule their demonstration for a later date. Count on this news outlet to provide an update at that time …

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: FITSNews)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has lots of hats – including that Indianapolis Colts’ greyscale lid pictured above.

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