hca will compete directly with temporary nurse staffing agencies by creating its own, aimed at reducing its temporary hiring costs. the subsidiary, called all about staffing, will move into markets nationwide.
the tennessean, jan. 31, 2002
by bill lewis
hca inc. is going head-on with nurse staffing agencies in its key national markets, including nashville, in hopes of easing a severe shortage of nurses and cutting its temporary hiring costs.
the national, for-profit hospital company is making a ''very aggressive'' move into the temporary staffing business for nurses in markets across the country, said vice president larry burkhardt. an hca subsidiary, all about staffing, is requiring agencies to submit bids for new contracts that cut prices and eliminate non-compete clauses that prevented hca from hiring nurses away from the agencies.
if the agencies want to do business with hca's local operating unit, tristar health system, they will have to agree to the new rules.
''(for) a lot of these agencies, tristar is their only client, so they have to come to the table,'' burkhardt said this week.
tristar discovered it had up to 35 different contracts and faced a situation in which the same agency might charge different prices to provide nurses to each of the 11 hospitals the company operates in the nashville region, burkhardt said.
''some were getting a good deal and some were not,'' he said.
patricia bloch, regional manager for favorite nurses, a national nurse staffing agency, said nashville-based hca was throwing its weight around in contract negotiations.
''they'll say 'this is what it is' and you have to live with it,'' she said. ''i think it's eliminating free enterprise.''
executives from several agencies met recently to discuss all about staffing, bloch said.
''is it some kind of antitrust thing? our company has been looking at that,'' she said.
burkhardt conceded that some agencies had resisted hca's overtures at first.
''their first call was, 'how do we stop this,' '' he said. but so far, only a handful of agencies have refused to submit new bids.
markets where all about staffing is either in business or soon will be operating include florida, atlanta. richmond, va., dallas, las vegas and denver. billing for all of those markets will be handled from an office in the fort lauderdale, fla., area, burkhardt said.
in nashville, all about staffing is leasing space for a recruiting office in the 2525 west end building. that location, not far from vanderbilt university medical center, is an indication of hca's aggressiveness, he said.
''we're placing that office in the middle of our competition,'' burkhardt noted. ''i'm very open about this. we're going to do it.''
hca believes it can cut the $45 to $55 hourly rate charged by the agencies by as much as 30%. in return, nurses who sign up with all about staffing will qualify for employment benefits, including health insurance and retirement plans.
the company will benefit by having a steady stream of nurses trained in its internal procedures. in the nashville area, tristar will rely on independent agencies if the supply of nurses runs short, he said.
greg eisenhower, chief financial officer for rehabcare group, a national, publicly traded company whose starmed staffing group does business with tristar, said all about staffing might have difficulty attracting nurses who want to control their own hours. he estimates that up to 20% of registered nurses choose to work through agencies. the nurse staffing business is expected nationally to generate $10 billion in billings this year.
''it is an enormous market and highly fragmented. hca wants to consolidate it and may have some success,'' eisenhower said.
''owning the market seems ambitious,'' he continued. '' lack of ambition has never been a problem for hca.''
bill lewis covers the health-care business. he can be reached at 259-8075 or at firstname.lastname@example.org