Inglewood City Council backs Centinela employees
New resolution aims to get hospital in shape
In response to mounting concern from area residents, the Inglewood City Council unanimously passed a resolution last Tuesday demanding accountability to the community from Prime Healthcare Services, which owns Centinela Hospital Medical Center.
At the city council meeting, four Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers (SEIU-UHW) members delivered powerful testimonials describing insufficient patient care and mistreatment of workers at Centinela. The city council, visibly moved by these statements, passed the resolution written by Councilman Ralph Franklin, demanding that Prime invest in patients and the community.
Specifically, the resolution highlighted the need for Prime to address the governmental concerns involving the high numbers of septicemia infections that have become commonplace at their facilities; ensure that the employees receive reasonable pay and benefits in exchange for the quality care they provide to Centinela’s patients; and make sure that the hospital is always adequately staffed.
“This resolution shows that the community is behind the caregivers and patients at Centinela,” said Tony Price, an X-ray technician at the hospital. “With the backing of so many city leaders and local residents, we’re going to win quality care for our patients.”
Prime’s patient-care record and allegations of potential fraud against the corporation were also addressed in the resolution. Five of the six hospitals with the highest septicemia rates in the United States are operated by Prime Healthcare Services Inc. Prime’s septicemia rates have led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the California Department of Justice to open official investigations into the healthcare provider to determine whether the chain’s surge in septicemia cases is authentic or a multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud.
According to statements made by the SEIU-UHW, during the first nine months of 2010, Prime made a profit of $163 million and the extraordinary profits come from its strategy of acquiring financially distressed hospitals at risk of closure and then cutting services that are vital to the communities it serves, such as chemotherapy, mental health and birthing centers.
SEIU-UHW also claims the chain, which acquired Centinela in 2007, has been known to cancel contracts with insurers—leaving thousands of local residents without a nearby in-network hospital—slash pay and benefits for workers, and lay off scores of experienced caregivers.
On Jan. 21 State Assemblymember Steven Bradford visited Prime Centinela to hear SEIU-UHW members’ concerns about patient care and their determination to hold Prime accountable to the community. According to the SEIU-UHW, while they were talking to the politician about what it is like to work at Centinela under Prime, management called the police, who then escorted Bradford from the hospital.
Bradford pledged to support the union’s efforts not only to have decent jobs and affordable healthcare, but to make sure Prime serves the community as well.
Prime Healthcare Services maintains that SEIU has been spreading false rumors about Centinela Hospital, and the company also produced a press release addressing the union’s claims.
Prime maintains that since its takeover in 2007, they have worked diligently to keep the doors of the hospital open. They have invested more than $30 million in capital; hired more than 250 nurses and more than 300 additional staff members; have not laid off any employees since the initial right-sizing in 2007; and have supplied more than $115 million in charitable and uncompensated care to uninsured patients – the third highest dollar amount of all 111 hospitals in L.A. County.
In addressing the concerns about the septicemia rates, Prime claims that the SEIU has distributed faulty analysis that suggests higher than average infection rates as a campaign to extort concessions in contract negotiations. Prime maintains that the union has encouraged SEIU-backed politicians to request that federal and state agencies investigate their practices.
Prime Healthcare claims that the high levels of septicemia rates are actually due to their hospitals seeing sicker patients and are as a result of their emphasis on emergency department admissions, focus on following strict compliance with Medicare coding guidelines, and providing early detection and treatment of septicemia.
Prime also addressed the hot-button issue of the change in health coverage benefits for its employees in the following statement:
“The hospital has implemented a new Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) plan for all employees. The plan is better for employees, as co-pays are lower and prescription drug costs are cheaper. The hospital also agreed to keep full-time employee contributions at $0 for the EPO plan. The hospital has required employee contributions to the new EPO plan for dependents only. The vast majority of employers are now asking for contributions from their employees. In fact, only 20 percent of Southern California employers offer completely free medical insurance to their employees. The hospital’s proposal is reasonable and fiscally sound.”
If you have concerns to report about patient care at Centinela Hospital, please contact this Patient Care Hotline: (323) 888-8313.
Following months of escalating concern over Prime Healthcare Services’ business practices, hundreds of residents and healthcare workers staged a protest with a street theater in front of Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood last Saturday to underscore their demands that the hospital’s owner stop profiting at the expense of patients, caregivers, and the community.
In response to mounting community concern, leaders and residents throughout Los Angeles took action to demand that Prime Healthcare Services, which operates Centinela Hospital Medical Center and 13 other facilities in California, stop profiting at the expense of patients’ health, caregivers and the community.
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