Workers at Prime hospital fired after taking concerns to corporate: Union

Seven healthcare workers participating in a strike at Prime Healthcare's St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Calif., were notified Dec. 20 that they were being fired, according to their union, Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West. 

A union spokesperson told Becker's the workers were told by management at St. Francis that the decision was related to the workers delivering letters from elected officials in support of their cause to executives at Prime headquarters in Ontario, Calif., on Nov. 30.

St. Francis shared the following statement with Becker's: "We're unable to comment on confidential personnel matters, but we can say that the terminations were based on a violation of our Standards of Conduct policy."

The front-line healthcare workers from St. Francis who were terminated raised concerns about what they said is significant understaffing, patient safety and other issues affecting their working conditions, according to a Dec. 20 news release shared with Becker's.

The workers ultimately took their concerns to Prime headquarters.

"We wanted to take our concerns about working conditions, safety and patient care to Prime's headquarters to ensure the CEO heard directly from front-line caregivers. We've brought up these issues for years to management in our hospital and at the bargaining table, and we wanted corporate leadership to understand how difficult the workloads are and how dire the patient care crisis is at Prime Healthcare," Mayra Castaneda, an ultrasound technician at St. Francis, said in the union release. 

"Instead of being appreciated for trying to make hospitals safer for workers and our patients, or Prime taking action to improve working conditions and patient care, we were fired. It's a huge red flag for patients at Prime Healthcare that their caregivers are terminated for speaking up about safety in their workplace and the quality of care patients receive."

SEIU said healthcare workers also delivered letters from various local elected officials in support of their demands.

Healthcare workers are participating in the seven-day strike that launched Dec. 20 at four Prime facilities in Southern California: St. Francis, Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Garden Grove Hospital and Medical Center, and Encino Hospital Medical Center.

Union members, which include emergency room technicians, licensed vocational nurses, certified nursing assistants, radiology technicians, medical assistants, respiratory technicians and others, voted to authorize a strike earlier this year. The union and Prime began negotiations in May.

The strike "will not impact our commitment to providing quality patient care to our communities throughout the holidays and always," Prime said in a separate statement shared with Becker's.  

"Many of our staff made the decision to put patients first by crossing the picket line … We value all of our employees and their dedication to caring for our community, and we are committed to ensuring a workplace that honors their work and continues to provide lifesaving care for the most vulnerable."

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