FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 26, 2018
CONTACT: Terry Carter, (805) 312-0024
Statement from SEIU Local 121RN President on California Department of Justice approval of Dignity/CHI mega-merger
SEIU Local 121RN President Gayle Batiste, RN, CNOR, released the following statement on California’s recent approval:
“The state’s conditional approval of the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives into CommonSpirit Health raises red flags for the Registered Nurses of Dignity’s Northridge and St. John’s hospitals. RNs and other healthcare advocates see cause for alarm in these mega mergers in general. There’s no evidence that they either improve patient care or control skyrocketing healthcare costs for our communities. The only thing they do is eliminate competition, which is rarely good for either employees or consumers.
“A giant red flag in this particular merger remains CHI’s extremely poor financial position. We anticipate that this will endanger the future financial outlook of all hospitals in this merger. While we are relieved to see that California will require CommonSpirit Health to provide charity care, we fear that this could force reductions to our hospitals’ overall operating costs. We have seen too often that a hospital’s promise to maintain services can be simply words if they’re experiencing financial shortfalls. If a hospital is in the red, they’re going to cut somewhere. Too often the line item that administrators cut first (and most) is staffing levels, in addition to other dangerous corner-cutting that puts patient safety at extreme risk.
“At Northridge hospital, where I work in the Operating Room, we have already experienced unfilled vacancies while these merger discussions took place. Some of our RNs were on call for as long as 48 hours at a time. We spoke up and forced the hospital to see that this was unsustainable. We were at risk of complete burnout and would eventually be unable to provide our community with trauma, cardiac or stroke care.
“The other red flag, of course, is this merger doubles down on a single religious viewpoint that seeks to restrict women’s reproductive healthcare services and disregards the standard of care for women—in what will be the largest nonprofit hospital system in the nation. While we were relieved to see that the DOJ’s approval document requires maintenance of women’s reproductive healthcare services for more than the initial consultant’s recommendation of five years, it does not go far enough. The approval allows CommonSpirit Health to notify the DOJ of any proposed reduction in women’s reproductive healthcare or emergency services as soon as year six, at which time the DOJ will assess the impact on the community. We had asked the Attorney General’s office to require at least 15 years of continued services.
“We also continue to share the concerns of community partners such as Health Access California on the impact to the LGBTQ community, including continued care for those transitioning. While the DOJ’s approval includes language protecting against discrimination, there is no language ensuring continued access to this kind of care. Eliminating this care, in our view, would indeed be discriminatory. And as President of SEIU Local 121RN, the Union representing three Dignity hospitals, I also personally urged the Attorney General to include language protecting LGBTQ hospital employees from discriminatory treatment. We continue to have concerns about the culture of these hospitals and will be vigilant whenever we see discrimination.”
Service Employees International Union, Local 121RN represents nearly 9,000 registered nurses and other healthcare professionals at 27 hospitals and facilities in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety.