In a meticulously detailed press release issued on February 2nd, Prime Healthcare Services (PHS), the largest for-profit hospital system in California, announced they are victim of an extortion campaign by the Service Employees International Union – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU) over the past year. What PHS is going through is a classic example of tactics the SEIU often employs with companies who won’t accede to their demands.
One of the contributing editors to Union Watch, Dave Bego, has written a book “Devil at My Doorstep” that chronicles his battles with the SEIU when they attempted to unionize the workers in his company. Throughout his book he emphasizes that what his company has gone through is consistent with a strategy of intimidation and extortion used by the SEIU whenever they encounter resistance.
Here are a few of the tactics imposed on Prime Healthcare Services by the SEIU:
January 2010 – Threaten to Tarnish Company Reputation
PHS rejected SEIU’s demands for a “quick” deal for SEIU members at PHS’ Centinela Hospital Medical Center so that SEIU could avoid a challenge from NUHW, an upstart union formed by disgruntled SEIU members. SEIU initially threatened to expose “dirt” on PHS, disseminate reports based on Medicare data, and claim that these reports showed that Medicare patients were acquiring serious blood infections like septicemia at PHS’ hospitals even though SEIU knew that the Medicare data identified conditions present on admission; not hospital acquired conditions.
February 2010 – Make False Claims to Company’s Lender
The CtW Investment Group, an investment fund created by SEIU, falsely claimed that to Medical Properties Trust (PHS’ landlord and/or lender at several of its hospitals), that PHS’ hospitals did not comply with California’s earthquake safety laws, had infection control problems, had engaged in Medicare fraud, and faced potential losses of millions of dollars. MPT conducted its own investigation and found the allegations to be baseless.
April 2010 – Make False Claims to SEC, Try to Derail Company Stock Offering
CtW sent a letter to the SEC, CtW repeating the false claims against PHS and urging the SEC to interfere with MPT’s planned stock offering. In an April 16, 2010 letter to MPT, State Senator Ducheney, at the request of SEIU, repeated the false claim that PHS’ hospitals were not in compliance with California’s earthquake safety laws even though publicly available data demonstrated that the majority of PHS’ hospitals are seismically compliant through 2030 and PHS already has OSHPD approved plans to bring all of its hospitals to 2030 standards within the next two years.
June 2010 – Threaten to Put Company Management in Jail
SEIU threatened to put PHS’ top management in jail unless they accepted SEIU’s contract demands at Centinela Hospital Medical Center and agreed to a “neutrality agreement” for PHS’ other hospitals which would eliminate employees right to a secret ballot vote as to whether or not to be represented by the SEIU.
July 2010 – Publish Bogus Study & Enlist Support of Compliant Politicians
SEIU published a “study” about septicemia rates at PHS hospitals based on a number of faulty assumptions and manipulated data. Congressman Henry Waxman and Pete Stark relied upon SEIU’s bogus study to request that the Office of Inspector General (OIG) open an investigation into PHS. At the same time, State Senator Elaine Alquist and State Assemblyman William Monning relied on SEIU’s bogus study to demand that California’s Department of Public Health (CDPH) investigate PHS and not issue any new hospital licenses to PHS.
October 2010 – Plant Bogus Study in Media
On October 11, 2010, California Watch published an article which repeated many of the false and misleading statements found in SEIU’s bogus study. After California Watch’s article was released, PHS finally had the opportunity to review SEIU’s bogus study and confirmed that SEIU had manipulated data to achieve higher septicemia rates at PHS hospitals, failed to recognize other health systems, including those at which SEIU members work, with similar patient demographics had septicemia rates similar to those at PHS hospitals, and falsely claimed that the Medicare data used to generate the study identified infections acquired at the hospital.
December 2010 – Forces Company to Endure Investigations
As a result of California Watch’s article and requests from the OIG and/or CDPH, two Medicare accreditation agencies, the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) and the Joint Commission conducted unannounced surveys at 10 of PHS’ hospitals in late November and early December 2010 to investigate the allegations of Medicare fraud and infection control issues raised by SEIU’s study. They found that there was no evidence to support the allegations of Medicare fraud, nor did they identify any serious infection control problems at PHS’ hospitals as claimed by SEIU.
February 2011 – Starts Over: Plants New Bogus Study in Media
The SEIU has now turned to a “study” about malnutrition rates at PHS hospitals and is encouraging California Watch to publish a story based on the new study. Like its study on septicemia rates, SEIU’s malnutrition study is flawed and relies on the manipulation of data to arrive at desired results.
What PHS has endured at the hands of the SEIU is not unique. To read the complete press release from PHS, ref. “Top Rated Hospital System, Prime Healthcare Services, Stands Up To Union’s Extortion Campaign.”