- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

LYNWOOD, Calif. (AP) - Registered nurses plan a week’s worth of rallies as the California attorney general’s office holds hearings on the fate of six nonprofit Catholic hospitals.

The nurses are encouraging approval of the sale of Daughters of Charity hospitals to Prime Healthcare Services Inc., which has promised to maintain existing services.

The 150-year-old Daughters of Charity chain is known for serving the poor.

Starting Monday in Lynwood, the attorney general’s office will hold six public hearings in each of the communities served by the hospitals - including Los Angeles, San Jose, Gilroy, Moss Beach and Daly City.

Prime, based in Ontario, operates 29 hospitals in California and eight other states. In October, it announced an agreement to buy the hospitals from Daughters of Charity, which had been seeking a buyer. The sale price has not been disclosed.

“Prime Healthcare signed an agreement that guarantees that these hospitals will continue to provide vital health services to the communities surrounding them, while no other buyer has stepped forward and offered any commitments whatsoever,” said Maribel Licardo, a nurse at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose.

The for-profit chain agreed to assume about $350 million in pension debt, retire about $400 million in other debts and liabilities, spend $150 million on upgrades and keep as many of the 7,600 jobs as possible.

Last month Robert Issai, Daughters of Charity’s president and chief executive officer, said Prime’s bid “was superior to all others” and that Daughters of Charity talked to 133 interested parties before deciding on four finalists.

For years, Prime has faced criticism and government investigations surrounding its billing practices and handling of patient privacy. The Service Employees International Union has criticized the deal.

Attorney General Kamala Harris has until Feb. 6 to approve or reject the sale or impose conditions.

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