NEWS: Healthcare Workers Seek Consumer Protections at Prime Hospitals in Contract Negotiations

SEIU-UHW Members Ask Prime Healthcare to Join with Them to Improve Quality of Care and Ensure Whistleblower Protections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 29, 2011
Contact: David Tokaji, 213-300-8892
Elizabeth Brennan, 323-888-8183

INGLEWOOD – Seven hundred caregivers at Prime Healthcare’s Centinela Hospital Medical Center resumed contract negotiations today with an innovative set of proposals to protect workers who advocate for higher standards from retaliation by Prime Healthcare.

“Contract bargaining is the perfect opportunity to not only improve healthcare jobs but to hold Prime accountable to quality care for patients and the community,” said Sabrina Coffey-Smith, a telemetry technician at Centinela Hospital.

This week Prime Healthcare was the focus of yet another investigation as the San Francisco Chronicle and other major news outlets statewide reported that Prime claims suspiciously high rates of acute heart failure that lead to highly lucrative Medicare reimbursement payments.

“We work inside the hospital and we see what is happening. Our first priority is the wellness of our patients and our communities and we want to make sure we have the freedom to do what’s right,” said Martha Alvarez, a certified nursing assistant at Centinela Hospital.

The proposal to protect workers’ ability to voice concerns about patient care stems in part from recent actions by Prime management. In October, Prime fired 35-year veteran caregiver and union activist Pat Aguirre from Encino Hospital Medical Center shortly after she testified before the state Attorney General on the negative impact Prime’s business practices have had on patients, workers and communities.

Prime Healthcare is under investigation for extremely high rates of septicemia, according to the Los Angeles Times. A probe by the California Department of Public Health resulted in referrals to state and federal agencies for investigation into possible fraud related to these high rates.

Healthcare workers throughout Prime are holding healthcare providers accountable as part of a platform called “Let’s Get Healthy California!” to which members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) have committed. Under this banner, healthcare workers are focused on improving the quality of patient care and the health of residents throughout California.

In addition to seeking whistleblower protections, Centinela Hospital union members on Tuesday also proposed the establishment of wellness programs to improve the health of workers in their hospitals and lower costs, and the creation of a team of healthcare providers to launch an education program focused on wellness, preventive care and to help prepare for the increasing healthcare demands of an aging population.

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