Prime Healthcare: Gold-Plated Toilets and Federal Lawsuit

[Aug. 27, 2014] SAN FRANCISCOIn its latest attempt to silence critics, Prime Healthcare filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), Change to Win and the organizations’ leaders. The suit is a mixture of old allegations that were thrown out of federal court multiple times last year, and equally spurious new accusations.

In response, SEIU-UHW has released a new video highlighting Prime’s attempts to use taxpayer-supported Medi-Cal money on a Bentley, a Beverly Hills house, a private helicopter, and luxury hotel rooms in Las Vegas. The video also highlights disparaging remarks Prime founder, president, chairman and CEO Prem Reddy has made about low-income patients and people without health insurance, while highlighting the fact that he has gold-plated toilets in his Beverly Hills home.

And in a bizarre and transparent attempt to use the lawsuit as leverage, Prime told SEIU-UHW that the suit had not been authorized and had been filed “accidentally.” Prime then demanded that SEIU-UHW support its bid to purchase Daughters of Charity Health System in exchange for dropping the lawsuit. SEIU-UHW has made it clear it will oppose a Prime purchase of Daughters.

“It appears that Prime will do just about anything to get their hands on the six Daughters of Charity hospitals, including abusing the legal system and outright lies,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-UHW. “Not only did they ‘accidentally’ file a lawsuit, but they ‘accidentally’ issued a press release to go with it. We will not be intimidated, and we will not back down in our defense of the Daughters of Charity mission to provide healthcare to the community and our commitment to protect caregivers in those facilities.”

The lawsuit also charges that SEIU-UHW controls the media, and calls out and criticizes a wide range of individuals, companies, hospital systems and organizations, including:  Healthcare Corporation of America; The California Hospital Association and its leader Duane Dauner; Tenet Healthcare; Dignity Healthcare; Kaiser Permanente; California State Sen. Ed Hernandez; the University of California, Berkeley; and California Watch and other media outlets.

Prime has a history of buying struggling hospitals and reducing patient services, raising prices, and laying off large numbers of staff to increase profits, and engaging in unfair labor practices in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

“The Daughters of Charity is rooted in caring for all of the community and we can’t afford to see these hospitals fall into the wrong hands like Prime,” said Stanley Clay, a pharmacy technician at St. Vincent Medical Center, a Daughters facility in Los Angeles.

The Daughters of Charity Healthcare System, which is an important provider of healthcare to low-income people in Los Angeles and throughout California, has been in financial danger for more than a year, losing roughly $10 million a month since January 2014. Healthcare workers and supporters urged the Catholic healthcare system to select a buyer that would honor the system’s historic mission of serving the community and prioritize the interests of patients and caregivers.

One such buyer is Blue Wolf Capital Partners, which is submitting a competitive bid and pledges to maintain the community based, safety net approach that has characterized the Daughters of Charity system.

Prime, on the other hand, has threatened to put the Daughters of Charity hospitals into bankruptcy if it doesn’t get major concessions from the unions at the facilities.

The Daughters of Charity hospitals are: Seton Medical Center, Daly City; Seton Coastside, Moss Beach; O’Connor Hospital, San Jose; Saint Louise Regional Hospital, Gilroy; St. Vincent Medical Center, Los Angeles; and St. Francis Medical Center, Lynwood.

SEIU-UHW represents workers at three Prime-owned hospitals in California and currently has a labor dispute with the company.

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