Prime Healthcare hospital workers vote to unionize


Medical workers at Prime Healthcare's Encino (Calif.) Hospital Medical Center have elected to unionize, according to hospital and SEIU 121RN officials.

The union said the vote affects 25 workers, including case managers, social workers, pharmacists, clinical lab scientists and dietitians. The election results were certified by a private arbitrator and the workers are now members of SEIU 121RN, which represents registered nurses and licensed healthcare professionals in California.

"As licensed medical professionals working in the midst of COVID-19, we play a vital role in keeping our patients and our communities safe," the Encino Professionals' Union Organizing Committee said in a news release. "We're working on the front lines during the worst public health crisis in modern history. We'll now have the ability to sit across the table from management to address issues such as understaffing and working conditions."

The hospital laid off nearly half of the staff shortly before the union election, including workers in the clinical lab, and brought in replacement workers to fill the laid-off positions, the union said. SEIU 121RN said one of members' first actions will be to fight the layoffs.

In a prepared statement, Ontario, Calif.-based Prime said the company "values the heroic work of all our staff across the nation in our 45 hospitals," and has retained more than 99 percent of the for-profit hospital operator's more than 35,000 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic without reductions or furloughs. 

"Encino is a small community hospital that Prime saved from closure 12 years ago, and we are proud of its recent accolades ranking among the top 5 percent in the nation for patient safety according to Healthgrades, and national recognition as a 'five-star' recipient multiple years in a row for the treatment of heart attacks, orthopedics, critical care and sepsis," the statement says. 

Prime said Encino Hospital, like others in the U.S., had been experiencing lower volumes due to the pandemic, and it was necessary to consolidate certain areas with Encino's sister facility, Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Hospital, affecting 25 positions. 

"These Encino positions were not part of front-line care and involved departments such as HR, food services and lab services," Prime said. "Every staff member is invited to apply to other roles within our health system."

Overall, SEIU 121RN represents 145 RNs and medical workers at Encino Hospital Medical Center.


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