• In 2007, Prime bought Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, announcing in a press release that it would “maintain all currently-offered services.” Within seven months, it had eliminated the hospital’s maternity and psychiatric care units.
Daughters of Charity didn’t have to risk going down this path, too. It could have chosen a serious bid offered by a company called Blue Wolf Capital. Health care workers supported Blue Wolf’s bid because of the company’s commitment to:
• Embrace and continue the safety-net mission of Daughters of Charity.
• Expand health care services in the affected communities.
• Create a specific solution to preserve and better protect employee pensions.
• Complete a collective bargaining framework with at least two of the three affected unions.
• Recruit key executive leadership with a proven record in health care turnarounds.
• Develop a capital improvement plan.
• Devise a serious and believable plan to avoid the system’s bankruptcy.
By selecting Prime as the lead buyer, Daughters of Charity has ignored the fierce statewide opposition, including that of two U.S. representatives, 30 state legislators, Los Angeles County and Santa Clara County supervisors, the San Jose Mercury News, the Lynwood City Council and many community organizations.
Their concern lies with Prime’s history of dismal care and ethics. The company is under criminal investigation for allegedly fraudulently billing the federal government approximately $50 million. It paid a $275,000 fine after deliberately violating a patient’s privacy by sharing her records with journalists and 800 employees. A group of doctors in San Bernardino County sued Prime last year when the company denied them access to their own patients. In addition, the company’s Desert Valley Hospital was sanctioned by the California Department of Public Health for improper care resulting in a patient’s death and its Garden Grove hospital was cited by the state after a patient was administered a lethal dose of a powerful sedative.
A record like that should have been reason alone for Daughters of Charity to reject Prime as a possible buyer. Daughters’ decision should have been easier knowing there was a serious alternative bid submitted by Blue Wolf. Now, the only way to protect access to health care in these communities is for Attorney General Kamala Harris to block the sale to Prime.
Dave Regan is president of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, a union of 150,000 health care workers in California.
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