A caravan of over 200 healthcare workers organized by the SEIU arrived in Washington DC today to demonstrate outside the Carlyle Group headquarters.

What does that have to do with Jeralyn Merritt’s mom?

Jeralyn’s mom lives in a Manor Care facility. Manor Care is one of the many companies being targeted by private equity firms as profit centers. The New York Times recently ran an article on what tends to happen when PE firms get into the managed health care business looking for profits:

As such investors have acquired nursing homes, they have often reduced costs, increased profits and quickly resold facilities for significant gains.

But by many regulatory benchmarks, residents at those nursing homes are worse off, on average, than they were under previous owners, according to an analysis by The New York Times of data collected by government agencies from 2000 to 2006.

The Times analysis shows that, as at Habana, managers at many other nursing homes acquired by large private investors have cut expenses and staff, sometimes below minimum legal requirements.

Regulators say residents at these homes have suffered. At facilities owned by private investment firms, residents on average have fared more poorly than occupants of other homes in common problems like depression, loss of mobility and loss of ability to dress and bathe themselves, according to data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The SEIU has been waging a campaign against the Carlyle Group for over a month now, trying organize Manor Care’s 60,000 health-care workers and put pressure on the organization to say how care will be affected by the acquisition.

They’re fighting for all of us within a corporate culture grown completely amoral in its acquisitiveness:

Over three years, 15 at Habana died from what their families contend was negligent care in lawsuits filed in state court. Regulators repeatedly warned the home that staff levels were below mandatory minimums. When regulators visited, they found malfunctioning fire doors, unhygienic kitchens and a resident using a leg brace that was broken.

“They’ve created a hellhole,” said Vivian Hewitt, who sued Habana in 2004 when her mother died after a large bedsore became infected by feces.

Habana is one of thousands of nursing homes across the nation that large Wall Street investment companies have bought or agreed to acquire in recent years.

As anyone who stopped by Paul Krugman’s book salon chat over the weekend noted, strong unions mean a strong middle class. The unions are also one of the only institutions with the strength (and willingness) to put real pressure on corporations like the Carlyle Group and stop them from picking at the bones of the sick and the elderly for the sake of a robust balance sheet. And in the wake of their efforts, last week the Senate Finance Committee said they would hold oversight hearings on nursing homes taken over by private equity.

Brave New Films has been covering the caravan by the Manor Care Shareholders meeting to express concern about the Carlyle Group’s buyout.

As Jeralyn notes, elder abuse is a crime. And I don’t know about you, but I really wouldn’t want to depend on the kind hearts and good will of the Carlyle Group to make sure me or my family were taken care of.

More info here.