A strategy to rescue a financially disturbed Bay Area hospital system fell through Tuesday after the buyer, Prime Healthcare, announced that it was withdrawing its offer.
Prime Healthcare blamed Attorney General Kamala Harris for killing the deal.
The Daughters of Charity Health System, which operates four hospitals in the Bay Area and two in Southern California, was struggling financially, saying it needed a buyer in order to remain open. Prime Healthcare is a private company based in Ontario, California, and had offered $840 million to buy the hospitals.
Employees got an email Tuesday morning from the CEO of DCHS explaining that Prime was backing out.
“It’s hard. People are like scared now, like, ‘Oh my God! What’s going to happen?’” said Veronica Vinas, a Seton Medical Center radiology scheduler.
Prime Healthcare issued a one-page statement outlining the reason.
“Unfortunately, the conditions placed on the sale by the California Attorney General are so burdensome and restrictive that it would be impossible for Prime Healthcare – or any buyer – to make the changes needed to operate and save these hospitals,” said Prime Healthcare founder and chairman Dr. Prem Reddy.
Some employees told KTVU they were angry at State Attorney General Kamala Harris. Her approval was needed for the sale of the non-profit to the privately owned company and she imposed some 300 restrictions. One requirement was that Prime keep all hospitals open for 10 years instead of Prime’s five-year offer.
The Attorney General said in a statement that her decision came after public meetings, some 14,000 comments by the public, and advice from independent health care consultants.
“By walking away, Prime is confirming many of the concerns heard at multiple community meetings that the continuity of vital healthcare services in these communities is not its priority,” said Harris.
The Daughters of Charity Health System CEO Robert Issai says he met with both sides, but they could not reach a compromise.
“We strongly disagree with Prime’s position on the Attorney General’s conditions. We are confident that Prime could successfully turn around the DCHS hospitals,” he stated.
The news was a concern for patients who have turned to Seton Medical Center in Daly City for decades to get healthcare.
“With the primary doctor, I’ve been with him I’d say about 20 years,” Joe Savin of Redwood City told KTVU.
Employees worry about their patients and their own futures.
“I have two children and my husband is the one that stays home and watches them so, you know, I really need to be the one to work and keep this job,” said Bianca Pangan, a registered nurse at Seton Medical Center.
“My blood, sweat, and tears working with Seton, so not being sold is a loss for the community,” said Liz Liao, who has been a registered nurse at Seton Medical Center for more than 20 years.
Management has scheduled three meetings Wednesday at 8 a.m., 2 p.m., and 4 p.m. to give employees more information on what comes next.