Daniel Freeman Hospital: Still Fighting for Its Life

By Theresa Hulme

Local volunteers are boldly challenging, once again, one of the largest hospital chains and Fortune 500 companies in America.

Tenet Healthcare Corporation purchased the Daniel Freeman Marina hospital from Catholic nuns a few years ago and transformed the hospital from a community serving non-profit entity into a Wall Street favorite. Though investors cash in handsomely on the ‘hospitals-for-profit’ fury that has hijacked U.S. healthcare, it is the average American that ultimately pays the price with their health and lives.

Known as the Enron of healthcare, Tenet Healthcare Corporation is not only the subject of investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice but has been recently exposed in the national media for crimes such as: performing unnecessary surgeries, recruiting patients, Medicare fraud, illegal doctor kickbacks, altering billing codes to bilk insurance companies, etc. In one Northern California Tenet- owned hospital, raiding authorities determined that about 80% of heart surgeries performed at this facility were unnecessary. As the quality of ‘healthcare’ spiraled downward following a Tenet hospital purchase, Tenet stock (THC: NYSE) seemed to fly high. With the stroke of a pen, Tenet executives eliminate desperately needed services while they sit fat and happy in distant and detached corporate offices.

The Marina’s Daniel Freeman hospital was once the choice for LA’s rich and famous. It now sits eerily neglected and near-empty. Tenet has literally starved patients of essential services that were once unique to the neighborhood facility by transferring many of its most profitable departments to other locations.

With federal investigations abounding and Tenet’s reputation and stock price suffering since the national media exposure, Tenet has put up for sale 27 hospitals in its nationwide collection. 19 are in California, 15 in Southern California and 4 on the Westside. Less than 10 miles from one another, the hospitals serve the rapidly growing populations of West LA, the beach cities, and communities surrounding LAX.

Not wanting to pay the cost of California earthquake retrofitting, Tenet seeks to shed itself of the hospitals that require expensive construction upgrades. Consistent with its pattern of buying hospitals across the nation and then selling them for profit, Tenet borrows the Wal-Mart style of ‘predatory pricing’ in which corporations purchase large blocks of real estate in a town, bankrupting the competition, thus monopolizing the market which results in a masochistic dependency.

Area hospitals affected by the Tenet divestiture include: Brotman Medical Center, Culver City (420 beds); Centinela Hospital Medical Center, Inglewood (370 beds); Daniel Freeman Marina hospital, Marina del Rey (166 beds); Daniel Freeman Memorial hospital, Inglewood- (358 beds).

These communities are already struggling with inadequate emergency care facilities. Tenet said it hoped to find buyers but couldn’t make any guarantees. If the hospital does not sell, it is simply closed. Obviously, mortality rates will be profoundly affected.

The local volunteers challenging the unscrupulous corporation have created “We CAHRE.” Created by Playa del Rey resident Julie Inouye, the acronym stands for Community Action for Healthcare Reform and Education. Grassroots and blazing new trails in healthcare reform, the group seeks to acquire the Tenet hospitals. The corporation is supposedly ‘donating’ the facilities to receive a tax deduction, writing off the property as bad debt.

The ideal arrangement is for Tenet to donate the hospitals to the very same community that fought to keep its only area emergency centers open. A few years ago, Tenet purchased the hospitals, announced they would be keeping them open, then a few weeks later put the property up for sale. Julie Inouye rallied, created a group of volunteers called Save Our Marina Hospital and rescued the neighborhood hospitals from closure.

With U.S. healthcare an increasingly failing system, the profit-seeking hospital chain debacles echo the drastic need for serious reform. The non-profit We CAHRE is attempting to lay the groundwork for what expects to become a national trend: community ownership partnered with preventative medicine. If the community organization can inherit the hospitals, the plan is to transition the reactive and trauma based nature of American medicine into a more holistic, humane and common sense approach to healing. The profit driven mania of U.S. medical care has become tragic to many families but lucrative for investors and hospital owners.

As pharmaceutical corporations dominate the industry, the actual definition of ‘healthcare’ has sadly become a misnomer. Many people, even the well-insured, are simply afraid of seeing a doctor. With surgery departments wildly profitable, many doctors instantaneously recommend intrusive and unneeded surgical procedures. Handed out like band-aids, pharmaceutical drugs are promptly suggested.

Simply, the industry profits when people are ill or believe themselves to be. In America’s fast food, drug obsessed economy, our ‘healthcare’ system stands to benefit and actually helps to create a sick and drug addicted society. Unbeknownst to many, most pharmaceutical drugs are petroleum based. Incidentally, the Bush Administration/Republican party receives some of its largest donations from pharmaceutical/drug corporations. The invasion and occupation of oil-rich Iraq was eagerly supported by Corporate America.

On a more positive note, We CAHRE has recently picked up support from Westside’s Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski and L.A. Mayor Jim Hahn. (With election year coming up, he needs a feel-good issue) Wherever the support comes from, We CAHRE needs it. Tenet is reported to be planning to ‘donate’ the hospitals to an inside group of doctors and CEOs affiliated with Tenet and its local holdings. Some say that doctor owned hospitals create conflicts of interest, especially considering Tenet’s sordid history.

In the bigger picture, the work of this local group of activists and volunteers will reverberate nationally. The poor state of healthcare in America is a huge national embarrassment, even in comparison to substantially less ‘developed’ nations.

In any case, most Americans agree that the current system, or lack thereof, is in need of Emergency Medical Treatment. We CAHRE is paving the way, pioneering efforts to address vital quality-of-life issues. In the process of obtaining 501 (c) 3 status as a non-profit entity, financial support is critical. Sought after nationally by reporters and other community leaders experiencing the same crisis, founder Julie Inouye says “The community must understand how important this is.

This hospital is for our region, we plan to turn it into a cutting-edge, model facility. At this point, we need the community to step up to the plate and help us. Nobody knows better what is right for a community than the people who live in it. This is our opportunity to do something great.” If the hospital becomes owned and operated by We CAHRE, the non-profit status means that any profits generated simply recycle back into the system.

Donations from the community have come in as low as $10. The estimated upfront cost for the hospitals is at about $10 million.

For more information, to become a volunteer or donate to WE CAHRE, visit www.somh.org or call 306-1487. Literally, a life or death issue.

Posted: Thu - July 1, 2004 at 07:41 PM