Kern Medical workers accuse hospital of violating public disclosure laws

Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 521 are accusing Bakersfield-based Kern Medical of violating California open meeting and public disclosure laws and being misleading about the use of an outpatient facility, according to a lawsuit filed July 18.

The lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, contends that management of the safety-net hospital violated the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act.

Union representatives said these laws require hospital districts like the Kern County Hospital Authority, which oversees the public health system in Kern County and Kern Medical, to reveal how they spend tax funds and deliberate in public. 

However, the authority "does not hold public meetings nor post agendas to its meetings 72 hours in advance as required by the Brown Act," the lawsuit states. "It does not take official action at open and public meetings. It does not publicly report its actions and the votes of its membership on important actions. In short, it does not comply with the Brown Act in any respect."

The lawsuit also alleges violations of the California Public Records Act because the authority nor Kern Medical Surgery Center "have produced responsive documents pertaining to the [surgery center's] professional services agreements." 

In a news release, the union said it is also accusing authority management of violating its enabling statute, which requires the hospital authority to "integrate its county hospital services… with the objective of eliminating discrimination or segregation based on economic disability."

The lawsuit also alleges that the Kern Medical Surgery Center "was created for the purpose of owning and operating an ambulatory surgery center in Bakersfield, but that is actually "is more than an ambulatory surgery center, providing boutique spa services and cosmetic surgeries to the residents of West Bakersfield at the expense of investments that could improve the quality of care provided to indigent residents."

Kern Medical told Becker's the hospital does not comment on pending lawsuits. 

Among other things, union members want the court to order an independent audit of the authority's finances and require the authority to comply with all statutory requirements described in the lawsuit. 

To read the full lawsuit, click here

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