The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

“Non-Profit” Hospitals Cash in on Staffing Crisis

Jan 9, 2023

Many hospitals in the U.S. are officially “non-profit.” But in reality, they operate just like any other capitalist business. Ascension, one of the country’s largest health systems, covering 19 states and 6 million patients, is a perfect example.

While top executives boldly lie that “we are a mission and not a business” and its hospital grounds are adorned with religious statues, the organization amassed over $18 billion in cash reserves and an investment fund of over $41 billion. Last year the chief executive of this “mission” raked in a cool $13 million.

The scam involves an arrangement between the government and the capitalist health industry owners it serves. Hospital owners make a phony pledge to help poor patients and are awarded “non-profit” status to avoid all federal, state, and local taxes. Ascension pockets over one billion dollars in tax savings per year with its “non-profit” tax status. To further this deception, the word “profits” is excluded from Ascension’s financial records, replaced by the phrase “excess of revenues and gains over expenses and losses.” It’s no wonder that over half of U.S. hospitals are registered as “non-profit.”

Since “labor” accounts for over 50% of Ascension’s costs, slashing jobs is Priority One! In 2019 their job cuts returned a windfall of over $500 million. Remaining jobs are often diverted from working class communities to wealthy suburbs. Prior to the pandemic, they consistently refused to fill open jobs. Then, during the COVID surges they reduced capacity by more than 500 beds.

Nurses are left holding the bag and forced to work 16 hour shifts with little or no prior notification. Those that refuse for whatever reason are chastised as “not in line with our value of dedication”!!

The impact on patient care is devastating. At a Joliet, Illinois hospital a single nurses’ aide was left alone to care for 32 covid patients, most of whom were on oxygen. Ambulances are sometimes re-directed away due to severely understaffed ERs, and health inspectors found many patients with serious bed sores after not being moved for up to 20 hours.

At a Flint, Michigan, hospital, overworked nurses report that patients needing help with serious, time-sensitive medical conditions were left waiting for hours. They regularly find patients unattended lying in dried feces. The work environment is one of perpetual crisis. “Every day is unsafe staffing!!!” one nurse reported.

Regardless of what hospitals call themselves, they exist in a system that prioritizes profits over everything else. Such a system that tramples upon the health and well-being of its citizens is in urgent need of replacement.