California Attorney General Kamala Harris will now decide on Daughters of Charity Sale by Feb. 20.

LOS ANGELES — Daughters of Charity Health System will have to wait two more weeks to find out if the California attorney general's office will approve its sale to Prime Healthcare.

Deputy attorney generals asked for additional time beyond the 30-day period it typically takes the attorney general's office to issue an opinion, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Nikels.

Six public hearings held in the communities the health system's hospitals serve elicited so much testimony that they needed more time to prepare their recommendations, Nikels said.

The move will delay a decision from Attorney General Kamala Harris by two weeks to February 20.

Harris, who is running to replace long-time U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, has to approve the sale of a non-profit healthcare facility under California law.

The attorney general's office asked Robert Issai, the six-hospital chain's chief executive, if he was okay with the delay, and he agreed to the request, Nikels said.

Without the $843 million sale to Prime the hospital would likely be forced into bankruptcy, Issai has said in previous interviews.

The sale and conversion of the non-profit system into for-profit hospitals is controversial, because Prime has faced investigations for Medicare billing practices.

The first hearing held in Lynwood, California on Jan. 5 drew hundreds and the number of supporters and opponents to the sale were evenly divided on each side of the auditorium.

Nuveen Investments, the majority holder of the hospital's bond debt, supports the sale to Prime. The sale would exit bondholders at par from Daughters of Charity's junk-rated $409.5 million in debt and its bankruptcy risk.

Standard & Poor's downgraded Daughters of Charity's 2005 debt, issued through the California Statewide Communities Development Authority, to CCC from B-minus in December. The outlook is negative.

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