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It’s Union vs. Union as Prime Healthcare Supporters Raise their Voices in California Media

December 16, 2014

Is the media narrative around the sale of the Daughters of Charity Health System (DCHS) beginning to shift? That would seem to be the case, based on a number of recent articles, letters, and blogs on the subject that make a positive case for the proposed sale. Indeed, even as one union fights to sabotage the deal at the expense of the public interest, the important issues at stake are beginning to engage a critical mass of concerned Californians.

Employees, unions, politicians, healthcare workers and other citizens have started to realize that there is a chance that the California Attorney General could cave-in to the demands of a particular union and say no to the sale—effectively closing the six hospitals and cutting off the lifeline they represent to local communities. That is an outcome few want to see, and it is a cause for great concern among supporters and community members in DCHS locales, where hospitals (and lives) hang in the balance. Prime Healthcare, the proposed buyer, has continued to emphasize the facts of the sale, hoping the convincing case for keeping these community hospitals open would eventually be heard above the noise and win the day.

On one side of the proposed sale stands the powerful SEIU-UHW, who are nursing a long-held grudge against Prime Healthcare and have chosen this moment to make a stand and block the deal. On the other side is the California Nurses Union/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) who have made it abundantly clear that they side with DCHS and Prime Healthcare. Indeed, CNA/NNU representatives were able sit down at the table with Prime Healthcare earlier in the year and come to an acceptable understanding regarding their members and the future of the hospitals. Politicians are now choosing sides in this union vs. union battle—a horse race that may make for interesting headlines in Sacramento but is hardly a political matter for those whose jobs are at risk and whose healthcare facilities are threatened.

Last week, the CEO of DCHS jumped into the fray, releasing a pointed statement urging lawmakers who have backed the SEIU-UHW to reconsider this “short-sighted” position. “For the good of your constituents and the good of our communities,” he wrote, “I urge you in the strongest terms possible to reconsider your uninformed position and avoid the dire consequences of seeing our hospitals close.”

A few days later, in a letter to the Morgan Hill Times (a news outlet near the Daughters of Charity’s Half Moon Bay hospital) he penned an even stronger letter writing that:

Rejection of the sale by the Attorney General would accelerate the financial crisis and eventual demise of these facilities. And when hospitals die, so do people.

Since the sale was announced, thousands of signatures have been gathered in support and more are pouring in every day. The California Nurses Association and SEIU Local 121RN embrace this sale. Hundreds of physicians have expressed support and look forward to partnering with Prime Healthcare to sustain our hospitals as thriving community assets.

Standing alone in opposition is SEIU-UHW and a small group of uninformed politicians.

This growing concern is not limited to DHCS executives. Last week, the CNA/NNU sent a long position statement to the Attorney General in support of the deal, outlining all the many reasons—from new investment to community support to economic impact to jobs preserved to the need to preserve California’s disappearing hospitals—for approving the deal. They write:

Having spent months reviewing and discussing the potential buyer’s offers and intentions, the nurses have determined that the most comprehensive and reliable proposal to operate these hospitals—and therefore the one most closely allied with the public interest—is the proposed sale of DCHS to Prime Healthcare.

Community members are speaking out as well, with over 17,000 putting their names to an online petition to the Attorney General on change.org. One DCHS nurse was moved to write a letter to her local paper, the Gilroy Dispatch, denouncing the misinformation tactics of SEIU-UHW and attempting to set the record straight. She appealed to SEIU President Dave Regan to, “Let me and my colleagues continue our mission of care. Don’t let our communities suffer the loss of our cherished hospitals. Let the sale to Prime go through.”

All of this activity has caught the eye of media outlets. To their credit, the well-traveled political blog The Political Blotter took the interesting step of “updating” what had been a story detailing the narrative of SEIU-UHW-inspired lawmakers that this sale was about a hospital system versus unions. In fact, several unions strongly support the sale, including the aforementioned CNA/NNU and The Political Blotter felt compelled to point out to readers that there was more to the story than had originally been published.

As the Attorney General’s decision draws near, the worrisome consequences of a negative outcome have inspired a broad coalition of support for keeping these facilities open. It seems that Californians are realizing that the case against DCHS’s sale to Prime Healthcare is something of a mirage, slick and stylish perhaps, but of little substance. The simple truth is that California needs to save its community hospitals. And Prime Healthcare has the resources and expertise to do just that. Its strong legacy of charity care makes the deal even more of a win/win/win—for hospitals, patients, doctors, unions, nurses, and community members. Let’s hope the real story reaches ears of the Attorney General before it’s too late.