[Sept. 4, 2014] SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In an unusual move, a group of state legislators is stepping up public pressure against a company’s plans to buy six struggling hospitals in California, led by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).
In all, 27 state legislators are calling on Attorney General Kamala Harris to scrutinize the sale of Daughters of Charity Health System to Prime Healthcare, which is under criminal investigation for allegedly fraudulently billing the federal government tens of millions of dollars.
“Safety-net hospitals are often a major employer and the main healthcare provider for communities that require comprehensive services, and we need to ensure there is responsible hospital ownership for these communities and the hospital’s employees,” said Pan. “Prime Healthcare’s history of cutting services, raising prices, and laying off workers should be of significant concern when reviewing the suitability of purchasers of these safety-net hospitals.”
Legislators signing the letter to the attorney general include:
- Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)
- Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose)
- Assemblymember Isadore Hall (D-Compton)
- Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood)
- Assemblymember Ian Calderon (D-Whittier)
- Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova)
- Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego)
- Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley)
- Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Oakley)
- Assemblymember Christina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens)
- Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara)
- Assemblymember Richard Pan (D-Sacramento)
- Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra (D-Los Angeles)
- Assemblymember V. Manny Perez (D-Coachella)
- Assemblymember Steve Fox (D-Palmdale)
- Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena)
- Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord)
- Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno)
- Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville)
- Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton)
- Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles)
- Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills)
- Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach)
- Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles)
- Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda)
Sens. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and William Monning (D-Carmel) previously sent individual letters to Harris.
Last week, SEIU-UHW released a video highlighting Prime Healthcare’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.
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 six hospitals are owned by Daughters of Charity, an important provider of healthcare to low-income people throughout California that 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 expected later this week to submit 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.