NEWS: Members Challenge Prime to Agree to Whistleblower Protections

SEIU-UHW Members Ask Prime Healthcare to Join with Them to Improve Quality of Care and Ensure Workers’ Right to Voice Concerns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 6, 2011
Contact: David Tokaji, 213-300-8892
Elizabeth Brennan, 323-888-8183

ENCINO – Hundreds of caregivers at Prime Healthcare’s Encino 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.

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.

“For this community to be able to trust Encino Hospital, caregivers must be free to speak up about the treatment of workers and patients without fearing retaliation from management,” said Kenton Smartt, a CAT scan technician at the facility.

Last 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.

Prime Healthcare is currently 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.

“We’re frontline caregivers so we see firsthand what happens at Prime hospitals. It’s up to us to make sure that Prime does right by workers, patients and this community,” said Cathy Begelfer, who works in the nutritional services department.

Healthcare workers at three Prime hospitals are negotiating with the company to improve patient care, lower costs and improve healthcare jobs. The campaign is 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 care and the health of residents throughout California.

In addition to seeking whistleblower protections, Encino 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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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.

Source: SEIU-UHW

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