Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Nurses rally for Daughters of Charity hospital sale

Chelsea Hallford, a newly hired nurse at Sutter Memorial, checks in on patient Britta Sharpe on the cardiac ward on Sept. 12, 2014.
Chelsea Hallford, a newly hired nurse at Sutter Memorial, checks in on patient Britta Sharpe on the cardiac ward on Sept. 12, 2014.

The potential sale of the nonprofit Daughters of Charity hospital system has become an increasingly controversial political matter in recent weeks, with dozens of elected officials and labor unions weighing in as Attorney General Kamala Harris decides whether to approve a deal with the for-profit Prime Healthcare Services.

Daughters of Charity, a chain of six California hospitals known for serving the poor that has been struggling financially, announced the sale in October. The sale’s critics complained that Southern California-based Prime would cut services for low-income patients, as well as workers’ pay and benefits.

The opposition, led by the Service Employees International Union and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, has been particularly vocal, getting lawmakers and other prominent figures to publicly lobby Harris to reject the deal. A Dec. 11 letter from 18 Democratic members of the California congressional delegation cited concerns with Prime’s “long and troubling history of cutting services, raising prices and laying off workers,” and a federal investigation of the company for allegedly overbilling Medicare. Forty-six current and former state legislators have also expressed opposition to the sale.

But the California Nurses Association is fighting to keep the deal alive. The union plans to release a report today showing the impact on health care services if Daughters of Charity goes under – a likely scenario without a buyer – while registered nurses who work in five of its hospitals will hold a press conference on the north steps of the Capitol at 12:30 p.m. urging Harris to approve the sale.

VIDEO: Though Gov. Jerry Brown boasts of a balanced budget, he still has billions of dollars in unfunded retiree health benefits to deal with, Dan Walters says.

EARLY BIRD: Former state Sen. Diane Harkey is getting an early start to her tenure on the Board of Equalization with a swearing-in ceremony at 5 p.m. at the board district office in Irvine. Shawn Nelson, chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, will administer the oath of office for Harkey, who was elected in November with 61 percent of the vote. Attire is business, but attendees will be served that classic California meal of In-N-Out burgers.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Steve Knight, R-Lancaster, who turns 48 today and is soon headed to Congress.

Call The Bee’s Alexei Koseff, (916) 321-5236. Follow him on Twitter @akoseff.