Healthcare workers to fight sale of 6 hospitals to Prime Healthcare

[Oct. 10, 2014] OAKLAND, Calif.Thousands of employees at six California hospitals are fighting to stop the sale of Daughters of Charity Health System to Prime Healthcare, which they say is not in the public interest because Prime puts profits before patients and doesn’t share Daughters’ mission of serving the poor. The healthcare workers will begin airing TV ads in Sacramento and San Francisco urging California Attorney General Kamala Harris to reject the sale.

Daughters of Charity announced Oct. 10 that it was making Prime the lead bidder for the critical safety-net hospital system and would negotiate with Prime exclusively.

Prime has admitted that it is under civil and criminal investigation for allegedly overbilling Medicare, and has threatened to take the Daughters hospitals into bankruptcy. Workers at both Prime and Daughters believe Prime’s track record of ignoring community needs, eliminating health services, and laying off caregivers in its quest to maximize profits is unfit to carry on Daughters’ historic mission to serve low-income patients.

“It’s disappointing and hard to understand how Daughters of Charity’s current owners could turn their back on 100 years of serving the poor by selling to a company with Prime’s history,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). “We are not going to roll over and risk watching Prime Healthcare cut services, raise prices and lay off caregivers like they’ve done in so many other communities in California and other states.”

If Daughters of Charity reaches a final acquisition agreement with Prime, Attorney General Harris is required to review and approve or reject the sale. Her record of standing up for communities and patient care is strong, as illustrated by her 2011 decision to block attempts by Prime Healthcare to purchase Victor Valley Community Hospital in Victorville, Calif., saying the sale was not in the public interest and would limit the community’s access to healthcare.

Opposition to Prime’s takeover plans is broad. Twenty-nine state legislators, 14 community organizations and four county supervisors across California have urged Harris to block the sale to Prime Healthcare, saying the Prime acquisition would undermine access to healthcare for low-income people and likely result in significant layoffs.

“I’m shocked that Daughters of Charity has made this decision,” said Caroline Plaza, a trauma room assistant at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Calif. “Every day my co-workers and I provide top-notch care to our patients and that doesn’t seem to be the goal of Prime Healthcare. The company would rather see how much money they can earn than how many people they can help get better.”

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

Recent research shows that patients who enter Prime’s hospitals may be put at risk because of the company’s unwillingness to use observation care. Prime has been fined by the California Department of Public Health for incidents in which patients died and paid a large federal fine for violating patient confidentiality.

Daughters of Charity owns 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 has 3,700 members at the Daughters of Charity facilities and three Prime-owned hospitals in California, and currently has a labor dispute with the company.

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