For immediate release: October 13, 2011
Contact: David Tokaji, 213-300-8892
ENCINO, Calif. – Encino Hospital Medical Center terminated a veteran healthcare worker this week apparently due to her advocacy for patients’ and workers’ rights and her opposition to the questionable business practices of Prime Healthcare, which owns the hospital.
Pat Aguirre, who has been a healthcare worker for 35 years and worked at Prime Healthcare’s Encino Hospital Medical Center for nearly 13 years, was given no coherent reason for the termination. She suspects that her firing is the result of her efforts to hold the hospital accountable to high patient care standards and for her advocacy for workers’ rights. Aguirre is not only an advocate for patients’ rights but is also a union activist who serves as a union shop steward and a union bargaining team member.
“I’ve always spoken up for our patients and my coworkers and stressed the importance of making quality care rather than corporate profits the top priority,” Aguirre said. “Ever since Prime Healthcare bought Encino Hospital three years ago I’ve been targeted and bullied by them for my beliefs and my union activity.”
Last month, the State Attorney General’s office held a hearing on Prime Healthcare’s bid to purchase Victor Valley Community Hospital in Southern California. Aguirre testified at the hearing and explained her concerns about the negative impact Prime’s business practices have had on patients, workers and communities.
After hearing such testimonies, State Attorney General Kamala Harris rejected Prime Healthcare’s bid to purchase the hospital, saying that the deal was “not in the public interest.” Three weeks later Aguirre was fired from her position.
Prime Healthcare, which owns Encino Hospital Medical Center, is under investigation for extremely high rates of septicemia, according to the LA Times. A probe by the California Department of Public Health resulted in referrals to state and federal agencies for investigation into possible Medicare and Medicaid fraud related to these high rates.
Workers at Encino Hospital have mobilized in opposition to Aguirre’s firing. Caregivers launched a facility-wide show of solidarity the day after the termination. Caregivers are currently circulating a petition and planning additional actions to demand Aguirre’s reinstatement.
There has been an equally rapid legal response to Aguirre’s termination. An unfair labor practice charge was immediately filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) by Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) alleging that Prime Healthcare acted illegally by firing Aguirre and calling for her immediate reinstatement.
Aguirre has an admirable 13-year record as a healthcare worker at Encino Hospital. She has received strong reviews and is widely respected among coworkers and patients for her hard work and honesty.
“All my work at the hospital was done out of love for the patients and the caregivers,” Aguirre said. “I just don’t understand why a company would fire someone for caring.”
SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is the largest hospital and healthcare union in the western United States with more than 150,000 members. We unite every type of healthcare worker with a mission to achieve high-quality healthcare for all. SEIU-UHW is part of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s fastest-growing union. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.