In response to recent Service Employees International-Union United Healthcare Workers-West’s (SEIU-UHW) protests and complaints regarding the quality of care at Centinela Hospital, Prime Healthcare Services has released the following statement:

“In the wake of a series of false claims and accusations, Centinela Hospital reaffirms its commitment to patient care. Since Prime Healthcare Services acquired the then-ailing hospital in 2007, the hospital has experienced a miraculous turnaround, and has been commended by several outside organizations for its quality of care. Without the commitment, hard work, and expertise displayed by our physicians, nurses, and staff, Centinela Hospital would not have achieved its successes, including:

* Becoming the largest employer in Inglewood; since 2007 it has added more than 250 registered nurses and an additional 300 staff members to its already robust work force.

* Investing more than $30 million in capital, including several updates to the structural integrity and state-of-the-art medical equipment and services.

* Providing more than $115 million in charitable and uncompensated care to the uninsured of Los Angeles County, which is the third highest dollar amount of any of the 111 hospitals in the county.

* Earning the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval in 2010, the highest recognition awarded by the national healthcare accreditation organization.

“The Joint Commission determined that there were zero serious deficiencies at Centinela Hospital, out of approximately 1,300 elements of performance, seemingly contradicting SEIU-UHW’s claims that the hospital has extraordinarily high rates of septicemia and malnutrition among its patients.

“CHMC also received clinical achievement awards in a number of areas this year including clinical excellence, emergency medicine, and maternity care and received five-star ratings in the treatment of stroke, pneumonia, overall critical care, sepsis, respiratory failure, pancreatitis, and hip replacements.

“The dedication of the doctors, nurses and rest of the staff confirms that our patients receive quality, compassionate and efficient care,” said Linda Bradley, CEO of Centinela Hospital Medical Center.

Despite Prime’s stated accomplishments, they are continuing to be called out for jeopardizing quality patient care due to exploiting a loophole in healthcare policy.

Senate Bill 408, introduced in February by California State Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez, O.D. (D-West Covina), would close a glaring loophole in hospital licensing law that jeopardizes quality patient care.

Existing law requires that any individual, company, or corporation that wants to open a health care facility in California first apply for a license through the state Department of Public Health. The licensing process is designed to ensure that those operating a healthcare facility, like a hospital, have a history of complying with the law.

“The hospital transfer of ownership rules we have in place were designed to maintain quality of care for patients,” said Hernandez. “A change of ownership at a hospital can have a real effect on compliance with requirements ranging from seismic retrofitting to minimizing the risk of infections-the public deserves to know the operators of their local hospitals are reputable.”

Senator Hernandez, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, was alarmed to learn that under certain circumstances the owner of a healthcare facility is able to transfer the license to a new owner without that new owner being required to reapply to the Department of Public Health.
“This loophole allows these new owners to circumvent the licensing process, which could potentially put patients at risk” said Hernandez. “If we really want these regulations to safeguard patients, then we must make sure they apply to everybody.”

Hernandez’ legislation would effectively close the loophole by requiring that a new license application be filed whenever the holder of an existing license changes ownership.

There are recent examples where the loophole was employed to avoid the licensing process. Prime Healthcare bought Alvarado Hospital from Plymouth Health Investments in November of 2010. Since the named license-holder for the hospital, Alvarado Hospital LLC, was unchanged in the sale, Prime was not required to apply for a new license. This occurred despite the fact that Prime was under state and federal investigation for a possible multimillion dollar Medicare fraud stemming from the suspiciously high rates of septicemia (a blood infection) being reported by hospitals it operates.

“Already under investigation for their suspect septicemia rates, Prime is now under scrutiny for having eight of the nine hospitals in California with the highest malnutrition rates. This bill will protect the patients of this state, including our seniors, from profiteers like Prime Healthcare,” said Gary Passmore, director of the Congress of California Seniors. He and among those who testified at a hearing held in Sacramento yesterday.