Advocates for the Indigent Fear Scheduled San Luis Obispo General Hospital Closure Could Leave Gap in Services
Advocates for indigent patients are "worried" that the pending closure of San Luis Obispo General Hospital, the only public hospital between Monterey and Ventura counties, could "leave a hole" in the region's "fraying health care system," the Los Angeles Times reports (Connell, Los Angeles Times, 10/19). The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors last week voted 4-1 to close General Hospital because of cost concerns. The county's last budget included a $6 million subsidy to operate General and associated clinics, but the supervisors had to approve an additional $4.3 million to cover the cost of payroll and "other cash needs." The county Public Health Department will use the nearly $1.4 million per year it expects to save by closing the hospital to improve services provided by a countywide network of public health clinics (California Healthline, 10/17). Although many doctors in the region have considered the hospital "superfluous for some time," some local advocates say "now is the wrong time" to close the facility, noting the area physician groups going bankrupt and insurers pulling out of the market. "The minimal savings of $1.4 million just does not justify the closing of a hospital. We're concerned that we don't have a stable health care environment," Dan Cashier, chair of an interim board studying General Hospital, said.
County Auditor Gere Sibbach defended the closing, saying, "The fact is that more of the medically indigent are treated in the other four private hospitals than at General." Sibbach noted that the county pays private hospitals for the cost of care for patients who qualify as medically indigent under state law. The county Board of Supervisors plans to meet again in three months to discuss a timeline for closing the facility. In the meantime, Pam Heatherington, who supports keeping General open, said that she and other area residents are attempting to start a community-based hospital for the poor, funded with local donations and state and federal grants. County officials have said they will rent out General Hospital for $1 if Heatherington's group is successful, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 10/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.