December 11, 2001
Tenet turns its back on communities’ pleas for long-term healthcare protections.
LOS ANGELES – Community and consumer advocates today objected to Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s approval of the sale of Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood and Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey to Tenet Healthcare Corporation. The groups maintain that the conditions imposed on the sale are inadequate to protect the healthcare needs of the vulnerable populations served by the hospitals.
Daniel Freeman Hospitals serve predominantly African American and Latino communities — a population that has more unemployment, higher rates of disease, less health insurance and more households living in poverty. “The conditions fail on every front to acknowledge the important roles the hospitals play in these communities,” said Lark Galloway-Gilliam, Executive Director of Community Health Councils, Inc. “This is especially damaging at this time, when area residents are facing layoffs from the resulting economic downturn.”
Tenet has agreed to keep Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital open for five years, but there is no similar commitment for the Marina facility. “It is outrageous that Tenet is only required to keep Memorial open for five years,” said Karla Zombro, Organizing Coordinator of AGENDA, “and it is scandalous that Tenet can sell the Marina property and make a huge profit off the loss of these critical services for low-income people on the west side of Los Angeles.”
“It is also appalling that Tenet has agreed to continue applying the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services indefinitely at both facilities,” said Susan Berke Fogel from the California Women’s Law Center. “Tenet is a secular, for-profit corporation and has agreed to restrict reproductive healthcare purely to enhance its bottom line.”
Tenet will not be required to provide the historic level of service through Medi-Cal and Medicare at Memorial. Tenet must only use its “best efforts” to provide a minimum of 15,000 Medi-Cal patient days annually at Memorial, when the average annual number of Medi-Cal patient days delivered by Memorial was more than 21,000 from 1995 to 1999. “We are concerned that many Medi-Cal patients will be turned away or be billed for services that they can’t afford to pay as a result of this deal,” said Lourdes Rivera, Managing Attorney at the National Health Law Program.
Also, Tenet is only required to spend $2 million annually on charity care in costs for seven years under the Attorney General’s conditions. “That is a dramatic under-estimate of the amount of charity care that these hospitals have historically provided,” according to Leslie Bennett, Staff Attorney at Consumers Union’s West Coast Regional Office. “In fiscal year 2000, for example, Daniel Freeman Hospitals reported that it spent nearly double that amount, $3.8 million in costs, on charity care at both of the hospitals in its community benefits report.”
Moreover, Tenet has agreed to spend only $100,000 annually on community benefits. Among the community benefits historically provided by Daniel Freeman Hospitals are: cancer screenings, meals programs for the homeless, free mammograms for women who could not otherwise afford them, and support groups for people dealing with issues such as bereavement, arthritis, heart disease, spinal cord injury, and multiple sclerosis. It is estimated that the cost of Daniel Freeman’s community benefits programs amounted to more than $845,000 in fiscal year 2000. “This sale will result in a huge drop in the community benefits provided by Daniel Freeman Hospitals,” said Bennett.
Community advocates urged the Attorney General to require Tenet to: maintain the emergency room and require Daniel Freeman Memorial remain open for a minimum of 7 years; commit to provide sufficient financial resources to meet seismic requirements, upgrade operating rooms, emergency rooms, patient rooms and replace necessary equipment; and require that if Tenet sold a hospital that it provide a portion of the proceeds to the community to provide continued access to health services.
None of these conditions were imposed. “Unfortunately,” Galloway-Gilliam says, “Tenet took advantage of the hospitals’ financial condition and the community has to pay the price.”
Consumers Union, (415) 431-6747
Lark Galloway-Gilliam, Community Health Councils, (323) 295-9372
Karla Zombro, AGENDA, (323) 789-7920
Susan Berke Fogel, California Women’s Law Center, (818) 785-7220
Lourdes Rivera, National Health Law Program, (213) 926-7353