Laid-off workers at Lynwood hospital raise concerns about quality of care amid pandemic

St. Francis Medical Center is one of the largest health care facilities in Los Angeles County. Officials say it treats about 64,000 emergency room patients every year, but the industry is going through changes.
LYNWOOD, Calif. (KABC) -- A group of workers at a Lynwood hospital who recently lost their jobs after it was sold and are now expressing concerns about the quality of care in midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Those laid-off workers gathered Friday to protest the change in ownership of St. Francis Medical Center, acquired by Prime Healthcare.

Ana Navarro was laid off Thursday after working at the hospital for two years and says the situation is "very emotional" and confusion to all those affected.

The hospital was in bankruptcy but one of the unions, SEIU United Service Workers West, fought against the deal and claims as many as 1/3 of hospital employees were losing their jobs, many of them in key departments, including emergency care and environmental services.

Mayra Castañeda also lost her job after 23 years.

"We found out that only half of the housekeeping staff is there today, so you have half of the housekeeping staff to take care of discharges, disinfect the COVID rooms, disinfect the procedures that are done after COVID patients are seen," Castañeda said.

St. Francis is one of the largest health care facilities in Los Angeles County. Officials say it treats about 64,000 emergency room patients every year, but the industry is going through changes.

According to the most recent data from the California Employment Development Department, employment in the health care industry has dropped. In June of last year, there were about 705,000 health care workers in L.A. County. In June of this year, that number decreased by 5.2% to 668,000.

The mayor of Lynwood, Aide Castro, says the changes will hurt the community during the pandemic when the need for health care is at is greatest.

"They did not care, they are prioritizing their profit," said Mayor Castro during Friday's protest.

The new hospital owner, Prime Healthcare, issued a statement saying in part: "As part of the acquisition process, Prime Healthcare has extended offers to approximately 80% of the employees at St. Francis Medical Center and the hospital is fully staffed to care for all members of the community. "
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