Nurses File Suit Against Duarte Facility After Unit Closures Prompted Layoffs
Seventeen nurses who worked at Santa Teresita Hospital in Duarte last week filed a lawsuit against the facility, saying they were laid off without notice when the maternity unit, emergency department and acute-care facility closed last month, the Pasadena Star-News reports (Allen, Pasadena Star-News, 2/9). The hospital on Jan. 9 closed the units, in part because of the state's nursing shortage. The hospital's outpatient surgery center, fertility clinic and 177-bed skilled nursing facility remain open. Hospital CEO Mike Costello has said that the closure was an effort to avoid bankruptcy and that the hospital could not afford to comply with new state nurse-to-patient ratio rules. However, at least two of the hospital's nurses said that the facility had no shortage of nurses and could have met the new state requirements (California Healthline, 1/16). Chris Sayler, a maternity nurse, said she initiated the lawsuit because state labor laws require institutions with more than 75 employees to give 60 days notice before a layoff of more than 50 employees. Under the law, employees also are entitled to 60 days of severance pay plus compensation for benefits they would have received during that time period, according to plaintiff's attorney Charles Zetterberg. Santa Teresita laid off about 100 employees in January, and Sayler said that none received more than 24 hours notice. The nurses are asking for about $323,000 in damages, but Zetterberg said the amount could increase because anyone who was laid off could join the lawsuit. The lawsuit also names as plaintiffs Costello, Apollo Healthcare and the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, which owns the hospital.
In related news, a Los Angeles County investigation into the closure of the units found that Costello violated state law by closing the emergency department without providing the community with a public hearing and 90 days' notice. County officials continue to investigate allegations by nurses that pediatricians were not on staff or on call for 10 births in November and December in violation of state law (Pasadena Star-News, 2/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.