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.

According to the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers-West (SEIU-UHW), a group at the forefront of the numerous protests that have been held since Prime took over Centinela Hospital in Inglewood in 2007, the health corporation has cut critical services such as chemotherapy and birthing; laid off more than a hundred workers; and tried to gut the committee that enables caregivers to advocate for patient care.

The union also maintains that while certified nursing assistants struggle to care for as many as 14 patients at a time, Prime is reaping huge profits; SEIU also claims the healthcare giant made $163 million in the first nine months of 2010 alone.

“Caregivers at Centinela are doing everything possible to provide the best care to our patients,” said Stephanie Allen, a respiratory therapist. “We are angry, exhausted and frustrated because Prime constantly pushes for profits at the expense of quality care.”

As an example, the union points to Prime’s extraordinary rates of septicemia–a blood infection–which prompted the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the California Department of Justice to open official investigations into hospital corporation to determine whether the chain’s surge in septicemia cases is authentic or a multimillion-dollar Medicare fraud.

Last week, California Senate Health Committee Chair Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) asked the California Department of Public Health to conduct an investigation into Prime’s Medicare claims related to malnutrition. Eight of the nine hospitals with the highest malnutrition rates in California were operated by Prime.

“I feel morally compelled to stand with workers, local residents, and those Centinela Hospital officials who feel strongly that the city of Inglewood deserves a “grade A” medical facility that ensures that patient care is never compromised in favor of profits through exploiting hospital workers, medical staff, and medical insurance programs,” said Reverend Lewis Logan II, a local religious leader and co-founder of Ruach Christian Community Fellowship.

Throughout the course of these allegations and protests, Prime Healthcare Services has maintained that they are very confident in the quality of care provided their patients. Prime representative Tari Williams has said, “What we have been hearing is nothing more than slanderous statements that are not backed up by any data.”