Prime Health­care sues union un­der rack­e­teer­ing law

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —Beth Kutscher

Prime Health­care Ser­vices is su­ing a union it says is wag­ing an on­go­ing smear campaign to pres­sure the chain into union­iz­ing its work­force.

The closely held hos­pi­tal op­er­a­tor has a strat­egy of buy­ing up fail­ing hos­pi­tals and then restor­ing them to prof­itabil­ity. In 2011, it launched a na­tion­wide ex­pan­sion plan that took it far be­yond its Cal­i­for­nia roots. It now op­er­ates 28 hos­pi­tals in seven states.

But its tac­tics have raised the ire of the SEIU-United Health­care Work­ers West, which has ac­cused the On­tario, Calif.-based chain of a num­ber of mis­deeds, in­clud­ing over­billing Medi­care, un­safe pa­tient-care prac­tices, cut­ting ser­vices and lay­ing off large num­bers of work­ers. The union is seek­ing to rally sup­port to block Prime’s ac­qui­si­tion of Daugh­ters of Char­ity Health Sys­tem in Los Al­tos Hills, Calif.

In the 69-page law­suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Fran­cisco, Prime ac­cuses the SEIU chap­ter of vi­o­lat­ing the fed­eral Rack­e­teer In­flu­enced and Cor­rupt Or­ga­ni­za­tions Act.

“While de­fen­dants’ meth­ods are wide-rang­ing and elab­o­rate, their pur­pose is straight­for­ward: De­fen­dants have met with and told Prime that if it does not turn over the nonunion health­care work­ers at its hos­pi­tals on terms dic­tated by de­fen­dants, they will de­stroy Prime and ruin the lives of its ex­ec­u­tives,” ac­cord­ing to the suit. “To make good on their threats, de­fen­dants have em­barked on a campaign of ex­tor­tion­ate as­saults on vir­tu­ally ev­ery as­pect of Prime’s busi­ness.”

Those meth­ods in­clude ma­nip­u­lat­ing Cal­i­for­nia Watch, a me­dia out­let founded by the Cen­ter for In­ves­tiga­tive Re­port­ing, into serv­ing as the SEIU’s “ally and spokesper­son,” Prime al­leges. It also ac­cuses the union of having close fi­nan­cial ties with two Cal­i­for­nia leg­is­la­tors—Dr. Ed Her­nan­dez, a state sen­a­tor, and Dr. Richard Pan, who chairs the Assem­bly’s health com­mit­tee—to cham­pion bills that ex­pressly tar­get the com­pany. And Prime al­leges that the union pres­sured Tru­ven Health An­a­lyt­ics to re­scind its qual­ity awards.

“The al­le­ga­tions in Prime Health­care’s law­suit against SEIU and re­lated groups and in­di­vid­u­als sim­ply do not hold up to scru­tiny,” said Steve Tross­man, direc­tor of public af­fairs at SEIUUHW in a state­ment. “Many of them were con­tained in a pre­vi­ous law­suit against SEIU that was dis­missed mul­ti­ple times by a fed­eral judge. SEIU will seek a fast dis­missal of this com­plaint as well.”

A day af­ter the law­suit was filed, the union launched a me­dia campaign step­ping up its fight against Prime’s deal for the Daugh­ters of Char­ity sys­tem.

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