Last hearing about sale of Seton Medical Center held

DALY CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- The final hearings took place Friday over the proposed sale of six Catholic hospitals across California, four of those are in the Bay Area. Patients, employees and activists on both sides once again showed up in force.

The hospitals are owned by the Catholic group Daughters of Charity. The state attorney general's office held hearings for each of those six hospitals because they have to approve the company that buys the chain of hospitals to see if it is in the best interest of the communities they serve. Friday's hearing was in Daly City, home of Seton Medical Center.

On one side is the California Nurses Association and hospital workers who support the sale of the six hospitals to Prime Healthcare Services, which operates 15 hospitals in California.

On the other side is the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, representing other hospital workers opposed to the sale to Prime.

Seton Medical Center serves mainly residents of Daly City with its large population of Filipino and Hispanic Americans.

As a mission hospital, it serves patients regardless of their ability to pay.

Debra Amour is a longtime nurse at Seton who told ABC7 News, "There's going to be a huge healthcare crisis if the sale doesn't go through."

Prime Healthcare has promised to keep all six hospitals open for at least five years, assume pension costs and retire other debts. But according to the president of the Daughters Of Charity, Robert Issai, the biggest reason for choosing Prime is, "Having money to close the transaction. Having cash that they can pay off our bonds."

SEIU's hospital workers want another company to buy the hospital, a New York-based investment firm. They say Prime Healthcare has a history of gutting services and slashing workers' pay and benefits.

"Prime makes an awful lot of promises and they have in the many, many acquisitions they've made before. Unfortunately, those promises were not kept," nursing assistant Rudy Vallin, with SEIU, sai.

Workers form other Prime Healthcare hospitals echoed that same charge.

"As an employee at Centinela Hospital, Prime says they'll work with unions, but that is not the case," Centinela Medical Center worker Stephanie Allen said.

About the only thing both sides agree on is this.

"When hospitals die, people die," Amour said.

The proposed sale now goes before California Attorney General Kamala Harris for her approval.
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