Registered nurses (RNs) will picket Centinela Hospital Center and hold a noon rally today to protest what they call a systematic campaign by Prime Healthcare to sharply erode care standards and force the elimination of experienced nurses at the hospital at the expense of patient safety.
Centinela is operated by Prime, a for-profit chain owned by Prem Reddy, an M.D. who has already drawn notoriety, say nurses, for his efforts to erode patient care conditions and bid to drive down standards for experienced staff while exploiting new hires.
In the past year, at least 150 RNs have quit Centinela, leaving the Inglewood community to an ever-shrinking workforce of experienced RNs who Reddy seeks to replace with new hires paid at the lowest rates for nurses in Los Angeles County.
“Hospitals should be a center for therapeutic care delivery with a focus on providing patients the best atmosphere to promote healing and recovery. Instead Reddy seems intent on creating virtual sweat shop conditions that punish nurses and put patients at risk,” said Jill Furillo, a registered nurse and a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) Southern California bargaining director.
Centinela RNs, represented by CNA, have been in bargaining for more than a year and have been working without a contract since December. Prime is demanding elimination of RN oversight of patient care issues by refusing to recognize the nurses’ professional practice committee and repealing nurses’ ability to take staffing disputes to a neutral arbitrator which would severely reduce the ability of RNs to effectively advocate for safe patient care.
Prime is also demanding a healthcare plan that restricts nurses to Prime hospitals for care, while freezing the salaries of nurses with years of service to the community and hiring new nurses at among the lowest wages in the county.
“These disgraceful demands are turning Centinela into an employer of last resort for RNs and driving down standards and patient protections in the Inglewood community,” said Tonya Reed, a critical care RN.
Inglewood residents have already seen their access to care diminished by the closure of Daniel Freeman Memorial hospital by another for-profit, Centinela-Freeman HealthSystem. Centinela-Freeman sold Centinela hospital to Prime in 2007.
Prime is under investigation for questionable practices including abnormally high rates of diagnosis and treatment of septicemia and malnutrition.
In the last two years Prime has hired almost exclusively new graduate RNs, about half of whom have quit. Under Prime’s contract demands, nurses expect that an exodus of experienced nurses will follow.
Negotiations are scheduled for next week. Other Centinela employees are also expected to join the protest.