Town hall: Seton caregivers voice concerns over hedge fund’s takeover

NewsNovember 4, 2016

NUHW co-sponsored an October 15 town hall meeting during which the community discussed the state of health care at Seton Medical Center (Daly City) and Seton Coastside (Moss Beach) since the charity hospitals were taken over last year by a New York hedge fund, BlueMountain Capital Management.

With San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim and Daly City Vice-Mayor Dave Canepa acting as facilitators, dozens of community members and Seton caregivers testified about chronic understaffing and inferior equipment under BlueMountain’s management, and the challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified staff due to BlueMountain–Seton’s below-market wages.

BlueMountain took over Seton’s operations after striking a deal with Daughters of Charity, the seven-hospital Catholic healthcare system that has run Seton Medical Center for nearly a century. Through its subsidiary, Integrity Healthcare, BlueMountain extracts $58 million per year from the health system for its management services. Seton caregivers are fighting to change the new profit-driven culture at their hospital and to ensure that patient care resources are safeguarded in the community.

“This is a really important forum to talk about one of the most vital issues in our community and that is our healthcare services,” said Kim. “We want to ensure that our community-based hospital continues to serve our most vulnerable populations — our seniors, our individuals with disabilities, our working class families — and Seton has for a very long time been that institution here in Daly City and San Mateo.”

“They’ve got us watching over fifty patients — one tech, eliminating three monitor tech positions,” said Monitor Tech Leticia Sandoval. “We used to watch twenty-eight to twenty-nine [patients], so it has really put a lot of pressure.”

“The communications system is very weak,” said Sandoval. “There are times where I can’t get information to an attending nurse, [when] seconds could make a difference of life or death. Patient care and safety is at risk. And it’s something that we need to address immediately.”

San Francisco Jobs with Justice Executive Director Gordon Mar and Melinda Dart, president of the San Mateo Labor Council and the Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers, voiced their concerns about the motives of a hedge fund in operating a community hospital.

“What’s playing out here at Seton Hospital exemplifies everything that’s wrong with our healthcare system nationally, where our hospital and many aspects of our healthcare system are run by corporate entities,” said Mar.

As the town hall meeting concluded, Kim and Canepa committed to request that California Attorney General, Kamala Harris convene a public hearing on BlueMountain’s operations to determine its compliance with the conditions attached to the attorney general’s approval of the deal that gave the hedge fund control of the hospital.

NUHW represents nearly seven hundred Seton Medical Center and Seton Coastside caregivers, including nursing assistants, housekeepers, dietary aides, respiratory therapists, receptionists, monitor techs, and other healthcare workers.