[Feb. 6, 2015] LOS ANGELES – Healthcare workers today called for Redding Police Chief Robert Paoletti to resign or relinquish his seat on the governing board of a Redding hospital owned by Prime Healthcare, citing his conflict of interest following recently released data showing that the hospital regularly calls the Redding Police to pick up seriously drunk and other patients rather than treating them.
Prime quoted Paoletti in a news release defending its practice of having intoxicated and other patients arrested, even those whose blood alcohol levels are at life-threatening levels, but never revealed that he moonlights as a board member for Prime’s Shasta Regional Medical Center.
“Prime’s reliance on Redding police to handle near-death patients is appalling enough, but the fact that Chief Paoletti is a willing partner in this practice and also serves on the Shasta Regional Medical Center Board makes it doubly so,” said Dave Regan, president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). “Is he working for Prime or is he working for the people of Redding? The only way for Mr. Paoletti to restore community trust is to immediately step down as chief or as a governing board member at Shasta Regional.”
Chief Paoletti’s quote in the Prime Healthcare press release indicates he believes that some patients, including the homeless and those who are intoxicated, need to be cleared out of the Shasta emergency room to avoid “limiting access to other acutely ill patients.”
Healthcare workers also point to the $100,000 contribution from Shasta Regional Medical Center’s owner to the Shasta County 911 system in 2010, which is jointly run by the City of Redding, as raising further questions about any possible arrangement between the Redding Police Department and the hospital.
Last week, Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) introduced legislation to stop the practice of patient dumping on the criminal justice system before those patients are medically stabilized. During his Feb. 13 unveiling of the bill, Pan cited the apparent abuse of the 911 system by hospitals owned by Prime Healthcare, which call emergency responders on patients at much higher levels than comparable hospitals.
Prime is unable to explain why its hospitals call 911 at rates seven to 10 times higher than other nearby hospitals. From 2010 to 2014, Shasta Regional Medical Center, for example, called the Redding Police on 14 occasions to have severely drunk patients taken away. All 14 patients had blood-alcohol levels of more than 0.3 – a condition that leaves people incapacitated and at risk of dying from alcohol poisoning.
Those incidents highlight a pattern by Shasta Regional Medical Center of a dependence on the 911 system. In 2014, the hospital called emergency responders 416 times, while a similar sized hospital, Mercy Medical Center in Redding, called 911 on 53 occasions. This disparity exists despite the fact the two hospitals have nearly the same number of beds – 240 at Shasta and 267 at Mercy – and serve similar populations.
At Prime’s Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville, the hospital called 911 a total of 3,326 times between January 2010 and August 2014, an average of 726 times a year, or 60 times a month. In the first seven months of 2014, they called the 911 system 509 times, an average of 73 times a month. Meanwhile, officials at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, a Daughters of Charity facility, called 911 an average of 10 times a month, and at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, also a Daughters of Charity facility, they called 911 an average of 11 times a month.
Prime Healthcare is trying to acquire the Daughters a Charity Health System and its six, safety-net hospitals in California. The sale requires the review of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who must approve or reject the deal by Feb. 20. Healthcare workers have urged her to block the sale because Prime is a bad fit to continue the hospitals’ mission.
Opponents of the sale include State Controller John Chiang, 18 members of the California Congressional delegation, 62 current or former state legislators, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, county and city elected officials, doctors, nurses, community organizations, and labor unions representing two million workers.