Lynwood Press The Press

Attorney general sued for blocking sale of hospitals

LYNWOOD — Prime Healthcare, which backed out of its proposed bid to buy St. Francis Medical Center and five other Daughters of Charity Health System hospitals after disagreeing with conditions imposed on the sale, has sued the state’s attorney general for allegedly abusing her constitutional powers.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles Sept. 21, Prime Healthcare said its allegations against Attorney General Kamala Harris point to “a sweeping indictment of governmental overreach and the California regulatory system and the unlawful influence of the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West.”

The complaint alleges Harris “sold” her political office to the union by conditioning her regulatory approval of the hospital purchases on Prime’s agreement to accept unionization demands.

Harris’ office contends Prime backed out of the sale in March because it had no intention of maintaining needed health-care services at the six hospitals, if the deal went through.

“Prime chose to walk away from the Daughters transaction months after publicly stating that it had no issue with the 10-year conditions and did not intend to close any of the hospitals or end essential services,” Harris spokeswoman Kristin Ford said Sept. 21.

“After an in-depth and independent review, 44 hours of public meetings and 14,000 comments from members of the public, Attorney General Harris set conditions designed to ensure that those who relied upon Daughters of Charity health services would continue to receive the care they need,” she said.

“Prime’s decision to walk away, and this lawsuit, reaffirms the concerns voiced at multiple community meetings, that Prime never intended to prioritize the continuity of vital health services.”

The proposed sale had been the subject of multiple public hearings that featured opponents claiming Prime would cut services at the nonprofit hospitals to boost the bottom line, while proponents said the hospitals faced possible closure if the deal was not approved.

Harris said at the time that Prime had stated publicly earlier that it had no issue with the conditions, which she said she imposed to “ensure the continuity of these health care services.”

The lawsuit names Harris as the defendant and seeks immediate injunctive relief on numerous constitutional grounds, including alleged violations under the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. and California constitutions.