ALAMEDA & CONTRA COSTA: Area Hospitals Can Support Demand
Despite pending closures and mergers, Alameda and Contra Costa county hospitals have enough beds to meet the area's health care demands, according to a new study released Tuesday. The report - - conducted by the health care consulting firm the Lewin Group --examined population forecasts and patient usage data to predict the need for emergency departments, ICUs and other inpatient hospital services through 2003. The report reveals that although hospitals will have "ample space during times of average patient volumes," they could be "stretched" to provide ICU beds during peak periods, such as winter flu months. Much of the expected trouble stems from external factors, including a shortage of critical care nurses. Dr. Molly Joel Coye, senior vice president at Lewin, added that patient use of ERs for routine health care has only compounded the problem. But rather than quell fears about upcoming hospital changes, including the closing of the Pinole emergency department at Doctors Medical Center and the consolidation of Summit and Alta Bates Medical Centers, Contra Costa County Supervisor Donna Gerber said that the "results seemed to verify the region's vulnerability." She said the lumping of hospitals into a single region may have resulted in underestimations of potential bed shortages (McMillan, Contra Costa Times, 12/15).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.