Tenet California hospital workers set June 16 informational picketing

Workers at three Tenet Healthcare hospitals in Southern California will hold informational picketing June 16 outside the facilities to highlight their concerns about staffing, wages and benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the union that represents them. 

The picketing will involve members of National Union of Healthcare Workers, who work at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital, Los Alamitos Medical Center and Lakewood Regional Medical Center. This includes respiratory therapists, housekeepers, nursing assistants and medical technicians.

The union cited understaffing at Tenet facilities. Members also contend the Dallas-based for-profit hospital operator is leaving some workers without health insurance despite receiving billions in federal COVID-19 relief funds and striking a $1.1 billion deal last December to acquire up to 45 ambulatory surgery centers from Towson, Md.-based SurgCenter Development.

National Union of Healthcare Workers also sent a letter June 15 to HHS and the Federal Trade Commission backing a federal investigation into whether major hospital operators, including Tenet, have misused their stimulus grants and other COVID-19 relief funds.

"We have special concerns regarding Tenet Healthcare … which received $2.6 billion in federal grants, Medicare advance payments, and COVID related tax savings between April 2020 and March 2021," National Union of Healthcare Workers President Sal Rosselli wrote. "A federal investigation would determine whether taxpayer funds were properly used by health systems, identify the need for any government efforts to recoup misappropriated funds, and explore ways to improve government initiatives in the future."

The union also said Tenet has the financial means to address staffing issues at the Southern California facilities, and it wants Tenet to stop subcontracting out the housekeepers and food service workers who have struggled to afford healthcare.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers represents nearly 1,000 workers at Tenet hospitals in Southern California, including more than 612 caregivers employed by Fountain Valley Regional and 225 subcontract housekeepers and food service workers who work at Tenet hospitals in Fountain Valley, Lakewood and Los Alamitos.

Jennifer Bayer, communications manager with Tenet in Los Angeles and Orange counties, expressed disappointment about the planned informational picketing.

She said: "We are in contract negotiations with the NUHW — who represents our service, maintenance and certain technical employees. While we value all our employees who are represented by the NUHW, we are disappointed that the union is taking this approach. We will continue to negotiate in good faith in hopes of reaching a successful resolution."

Ms. Bayer said contract vendor Compass Group — which provides services at Fountain Valley Regional, Lakewood Regional Medical Center and Los Alamitos Medical Center — is also in contract negotiations with the NUHW. Tenet is not participating in those negotiations.

"Each hospital is fully operational and our staff's focus, as always, is on providing exceptional quality patient care. We are proud of the professionalism and dedication demonstrated by our caregivers and staff during this unprecedented pandemic," she said. 

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