By CBSLA Staff

LYNWOOD (CBSLA) — Laid off hospital workers protested outside St. Francis Medical Center Friday, accusing the hospital’s new owner of replacing veteran workers with inexperienced ones and jeopardizing patient safety in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Laid off workers protest outside St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood on Friday. (CBSLA)

“We have 30 plus years, 40 years,” one laid off worker said. “Now, at midnight, we’re put out in the street.”

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The group claims that as much as 30% of the hospital’s staff was laid off after Prime Healthcare took over ownership of the hospital, a move that Lynwood Mayor Aide Castro spoke out against.

“This was our hospital,” she said. “They took it from us. They threw our hospital into chaos.”

Ashley Cantrell, one of the laid off workers, said that she and other hospital employees were willing to reuse personal protective equipment to treat COVID-19 patients and their experience with coronavirus patients was discarded by the hospital.

“I’m ready to work,” she said. “I’m committed to my job, and to be out on the street and see my job posted online is very confusing.”

The protesters said that several key departments within the hospital were impacted by the layoffs — with as many as 300 people losing their jobs — and that patient care would be compromised.

“My understanding is the ER nurses are short staffed,” Noe Guzman, a laid off worker, said. “They usually have about 17 nurses in the ER, today it is down to 10.”

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But a spokesperson for the hospital said that not only have staffing levels have not been negatively impacted by the layoffs, but that the quality of care would get better.

“Under the new ownership, we are really excited, because they have already invested up to $47 million for improving quality of care at this hospital,” Margaret Pfeiffer, hospital senior administrator, said. “Last night we were able to launch a new electronic medical record that’s been long overdue and needed at this hospital.”

Saint Francis filed for bankruptcy two years ago and said the new owners extended job offers to about 80% of the staff.

“We did do an evaluation of the staffing plan with our unions, and we implemented that plan,” Pfeiffer said.

Though union leaders dispute that account.

“When you are getting rid of the most senior and most experienced people, and you’re bringing in registry people who are either new grads or who do not know the protocols, the processes or the procedures at this facility, you’re compromising patient care,” Guzman said.

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The hospital said it treats more than 64,000 emergency patients each year and remains fully staffed and open for business.