By Chad Garland
August 15, 2014
Prime Healthcare Services Inc., a hospital chain that has come under fire for billing and patient privacy issues, is facing opposition over its potential acquisition of six California hospitals, including two medical centers in Los Angeles County.
On Friday, hospital workers, union representatives and elected officials protested against Prime outside St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown Los Angeles, one of the six hospitals put up for sale this year by the Daughters of Charity Health System.
The nonprofit Catholic chain also runs St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood and four Bay Area hospitals.
Opponents of Prime say the for-profit company, which operates 27 hospitals in California and other states, has a record of buying up distressed facilities and then cutting patient services, boosting prices and laying off workers. The protests have been led by the Service Employees International Union, which says Prime will eliminate workers’ pensions and other benefits.
But Robert Issai, president and chief executive of the Daughters of Charity Health System, said the group is looking for buyers who are willing to take on the entire six-hospital chain in order to keep commitments such as its pension system intact.
“Promises made, we want to keep,” Issai said.
Neither Issai nor Prime would discuss any pending deal between the companies.
Edward Barrera, a spokesman for Prime, said the Ontario company “is dedicated to ensuring access to healthcare and has been able to save hospitals allowing them to continue to serve communities.”
Barrera added that Prime has never closed a hospital or put one into bankruptcy.
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