Endless waiting.
Inadequate care.
Preventable deaths.

There’s an elephant in the waiting room of every California hospital: our healthcare is in crisis and we need to talk about it.

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Every day, patients across California are experiencing the consequences of a dysfunctional healthcare system. From minor frustrations like long wait times, to major, life-threatening shortfalls in care, we’ve all felt what it means to be let down by failing healthcare. Here’s what the system doesn’t want you to know. And, what you can do about it.

The Elephant: Hospital mismanagement and misplaced priorities have created a staffing shortage.

The Wall Street Playbook

Major California hospitals claim to be “non-profit.” In fact, they have become massive corporations with a Wall Street playbook approach to hospital management: slashing staff and using that money for risky non-healthcare investments to maximize profits and swell executive salaries. Below are just a few of the ways in which California hospital systems have operated like corporate raiders.

Inflated Executive Salaries

In 2021 and 2022, in the midst of a major understaffing crisis, California dialysis companies spent millions on executive compensation while staff and patients suffered. Fresenius Medical Care, Satellite Healthcare, and DaVita paid just their CEOs a combined $9.5 million in annual compensation.

Elephant Standing Over Man in Crowded Hospital Waiting Room

Taking the Easy Way Out

California hospitals continue to invest in quick-fix solutions that don’t fix anything, while our quality of care plummets.

Traveling nurses. Hospital robots. More operational cuts. These are some of the “solutions” dysfunctional hospital systems are putting in place to address the staffing shortage they put into motion. It’s not working – the equivalent of putting a bandaid over a bullet wound. Which isn’t far off from the quality of care you’d be receiving if we don’t change course now.

The Impact: Mismanagement, short-staffing, and lack of investment in care.

We Pay The Price For Their Bad Decisions

What happens when hospital management plays roulette with our healthcare dollars? CEOs pocket record-breaking paydays while everyday hospital employees pay the price. Here are a few examples of how everyday California patients are paying the price for the terrible decisions hospital management continues to make.

Increased Hospital Wait Times Icon

Extremely Long Wait-Times

California has one of the worst average wait times in the country, with patients having to wait hours to receive medical care.

Increased Risk of Sepsis and Deadly Infection in Hospitals Icon

Increased Risk of Deadly Infections 

Over the course of the last decade, the number of patients developing sepsis in California hospitals has continued to rise. Sepsis is a life-threatening response to infection.  

Decreased Hospital Care and Community Benefits

Decreased Community Benefits

Hospitals receive substantial tax breaks in return for charitable care and operating programs that benefit the community. California hospitals are the worst in the country at keeping that promise, with a “fair share deficit” of $2.5 billion in 2019.

Elephant Standing in Hospital Waiting Room

Healthcare Worker Stories

See how patients and workers are being impacted by hospital greed.

The Solution: How to fix California’s healthcare system

If hospitals are able to spend that much to pay executives and play the financial markets, why aren’t they able to invest in necessary medical equipment, adequate staffing, or quality patient care? Because of old-fashioned corporate greed, our healthcare system is being severely mismanaged, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s time to address the elephant in the waiting room. 

Put Patients Over Profits

Hospital systems, even non-profits, are putting profits over patients. They have put a Wall Street playbook over community care, and it’s time for hospitals to recommit to providing the best care to each patient – regardless of financial status and background. We need hospitals to recommit to investing in public health. That means they need to drop their investments in fossil fuels, fast food, and any other industry that harms California communities.

Invest In Hospital Workers

Hospital systems urgently need to end the understaffing crisis, and the path to doing that is simple. Hospital execs need to recognize the people who do the real work, and make sure that they are treated with dignity. That means increased pay across the board, competitive benefits, and an investment in training and career development opportunities. Hospital understaffing won’t get fixed overnight, but there are clear things that hospitals can do today to make life a little bit easier for our overworked, and oftentimes underappreciated, healthcare workers.

Train The Next Gen of Caregivers

Healthcare workers are essential in every community but they’ve faced disastrous working conditions and low pay for a long time. It’s no wonder that so few Californians are joining the trade. That’s why SEIU-UHW created the Futuro Health program to train the next generation of allied health workers. To solve the understaffing crisis, we need hospital systems to renew their investment in future employees by committing a sizable budget to long-term fixes to our staffing problems. 

Promote Transparency

If hospitals are meant to serve patients, then patients deserve to know what hospitals are spending their money on. We need complete transparency over any large investments made by a California hospital. That means a complete list of every investment in their portfolios, how much each executive is being paid – both in salary and bonuses, and the amount invested in short-term solutions to understaffing.

Share your experience as a patient in a California hospital.

If you’ve been impacted by decreasing quality of care in a California hospital, we want to hear from you. We will never share your story without contacting you first.

    Who We Are

    The Elephant in the Waiting Room is proudly brought to you by the dedicated healthcare workers of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). We are a union dedicated to ensuring our workers have everything they need to provide the high-quality care their patients need. That includes sounding the alarm on the understaffing crisis and its cause: underinvestment in healthcare.