Troubling Questions, Including New Allegations of Fraud, Should Be Grounds to Halt the Sale, Workers Say
[7-7-20] LOS ANGELES – A union of healthcare workers has filed a formal objection with the California attorney general to the sale of St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood to Prime Healthcare, a corporation with a history of allegations involving Medicare fraud, bilking taxpayers, and misdiagnosing patients in a scheme to jack up their reimbursements and profits.
In written opposition submitted to the attorney general of California, whose office must approve the sale, Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) calls for a rejection of Prime’s acquisition of St. Francis, saying the sale is “not in the public interest” and likely to have a “negative impact on the availability and accessibility of healthcare in the community.” The filing calls on Verity Health System, the current owner of St. Francis, to find a new purchaser that will better serve the community.
“Prime’s shocking history of deceit, fraud and repeated elimination of health services that patients depend on is simply out of step with owning a hospital like St. Francis, which is a lifeline to the people of Lynwood and surrounding communities,” said Mauricio Medina, a certified nursing assistant at St. Francis and a member of SEIU-UHW. “My co-workers and I have endured multiple sales of our hospital and the dangers of treating patients with COVID-19, too often without the proper protective equipment. After all of that, it’s outrageous to think that our hospital will now be sold to a corporation with such a checkered past.”
The filing raises new issues beyond Prime Healthcare’s $65 million settlement in 2018 with the U.S. Department of Justice based on allegations of Medicare fraud.
As part of its settlement in 2018, Prime entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (“CIA”), a document outlining the obligations that a company involved in healthcare makes with a federal government agency or a state government as part of a civil settlement. But recent activities raise troubling questions about whether Prime is in violation of the CIA:
An analysis by SEIU-UHW further shows that Prime has a history of cutting services at hospitals it acquires, including maternity and cancer services.
“We cannot trust Prime. They turned their backs on this community just a few years ago because they would not go along with a requirement to retain all of the services our patients need,” Medina said, referring to 2015, when the attorney general approved Prime’s proposed acquisition of the Daughters of Charity Health System, which then included St. Francis Medical Center. Prime walked away, declaring that the attorney general’s conditions, which were designed to ensure the continuation of essential healthcare services, were too “onerous.”
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SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is one of the largest unions of hospital workers in the United States, with 97,000 members, including approximately 1,000 at St. Francis. Learn more at www.seiu-uhw.org.
St. Francis Medical Center is a 384-bed general acute care hospital serving 1.7 million people. It is a critically important provider of health and trauma care to the community of Southeast Los Angeles and a key safety-net provider. SFMC treats a substantially higher number of patients covered by Medi-Cal relative to hospitals in both Los Angeles County and California overall. SFMC has reported positive net income for the past four fiscal years, ranging from $70.4 million in FY 2015 to $18.7 million in FY 2019.