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Ex-employees of KC-area hospitals sold to Prime Healthcare sue over severance pay

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Above image credit: Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. (Photo by Mike Sherry/The Hale Center for Journalism)
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2 minute read

Just days after Prime Healthcare Services agreed to buy two Kansas City-area hospitals, laid-off employees of two other area hospitals owned by Prime sued the company, claiming they were not provided with promised severance benefits.

The suit seeks class-action status on behalf of other terminated employees. It says 49 workers were let go immediately after Prime bought Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and Saint John Hospital in Leavenworth, Kan., from the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System in April 2013.

The complaint, filed by Patricia Geiger and Michelle Hunget, doesn’t name the hospitals at which they worked. But their LinkedIn profiles identify Geiger as a former director of cardiovascular and intensive care at Providence Medical Center and Hunget as the one-time director of Providence’s Family Care Center.

Prime did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

According to the suit, the Sisters of Charity laid off “roughly 24 employees” before the purchase was completed and paid them severance. After the closing date, however, another 49 employees were terminated but not awarded severance pay.

The suit says Prime delayed announcing the layoffs to avoid their financial impact on the deal.

In addition to the Prime subsidiaries that operate the hospitals, the suit names the Sisters of Charity as a defendant.

A spokeswoman for Sisters of Charity could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Kathleen Conwell, a spokeswoman for Providence and Saint John hospitals, said in an email that Providence had gained 92 employees since Prime bought it and Saint John had lost four.

“I do know that we have been steadily adding staff for the last six months or so as our patient volumes have increased and we have moved different services in-house,” she said.

Providence now employs 1,076 employees, according to information supplied by Conwell. Saint John employs 244.

On Monday, Ontario, Calif.-based Prime agreed to purchase two other area Catholic hospitals, St. Joseph Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., and St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs, Mo.

The owner of those hospitals, Carondelet, announced their sale in 2013 to HCA Midwest Health System, the area’s biggest healthcare network. But the deal foundered when it became clear the Federal Trade Commission would not approve it.

Prime owns and operates 27 hospitals in seven states. The private company has a history of buying debt-laden hospitals and attempting to turn them around.

It has run into a variety of legal troubles, including a federal probe of its billing practices and a lawsuit by Sisters of Charity accusing it of failing to make payments in connection with its purchase of Providence and Saint John.

Prime maintains its billing practices are legal and has moved to dismiss the Sisters of Charity lawsuit.

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