Last week, 1,500 healthcare workers struck at St. Francis Medical Center and three other Southern California medical facilities run by Prime Healthcare. Their strike comes on the heels of the strike by 85,000 Kaiser Permanente workers across the country, the largest healthcare workers’ strike in US history. Like their counterparts at Kaiser, they are striking for better wages and higher staffing.

Prime is a major healthcare conglomerate that is notorious for its ruthless cost-cutting and slashing in the pursuit of profit, often at the expense of patients. With its 45 hospitals and some 300 outpatient clinics, it has a history of aggressively going after patients for unpaid bills, turning away those without insurance and buying and gutting floundering hospitals to make a quick profit. This summer, 300 healthcare workers struck at St. Michael’s in New Jersey, a facility also owned by Prime.

Prem Reddy, the CEO of Prime, made his fortune off looting the healthcare system. When hospitals or other healthcare facilities go bankrupt, Prime sweeps them up at bargain prices and sells off assets while preserving the more lucrative services. After buying hospitals, it has previously suspended chemotherapy treatments, mental health care and birthing center services while continuing elective surgeries.

St. Francis itself was acquired by Prime in August 2020 after the hospital’s former parent company, Verity Health, filed for bankruptcy. One of Prime’s first acts was to carry out layoffs at the hospital, something that a number of strikers spoke about with World Socialist Web Site reporters.

An OB-GYN nurse who wished to remain anonymous described this process:

This facility has always made money, but it supported the other facilities in our complex, and we always provided for the other ones to sustain. When it wasn’t sustainable anymore, then they sold us independently, and everybody wanted St. Francis, because St. Francis has always made money. So Prime took over, they decreased the salary by 12 percent.

When they took us over in 2020, they cut out 20 percent of the nurses, the high senior nurses. Of course, they were the highest paid, but they’re all specialty. They’re all very, very well-educated and trained in their department. So they got rid of them. Then they kept us in a freeze for three years. The language that they have in the contract is a bankruptcy contract language. It wasn’t negotiated between the union and Prime. The courts gave it to them. Whatever they wanted, they got.

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