ALAMEDA COUNTY: Calls For Cost Cuts Despite Flu Emergency
Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Keith Carson yesterday warned Alameda County Medical Center managers that unless the system's ballooning deficit is brought under control the board will begin "to take drastic measures in terms of eliminating positions" from the top down, the Oakland Tribune reports (Horowitz, 1/28). Alameda County Medical Center, which includes Highland and Fairmont Hospitals and the John George psychiatric facility, is facing a $6.5 million projected deficit for fiscal year 1997-98. "Health officials said a decline in patients was largely responsible for the financial problems," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (1/28).
Flu State Of Emergency
The call for eliminating the medical center's deficit came the same day that the Alameda County Board was forced to approve a medical state of emergency. According to the Oakland Tribune, "County Health Officer Dr. Arthur Chen asked for the declaration after learning Monday that only six or seven critical care beds were available at the county's 13 hospitals." Chen emphasized that the emergency resolution was triggered by the flu outbreak now flooding Northern California hospitals, not by the looming California Nurses Association strike against Kaiser Permanente hospitals in the area. Chen has warned Kaiser hospitals that the county "will not approve any rerouting of patients because of lack of bed space," and on Monday he "urged the CNA to postpone its strike." To meet the local crisis, Chen called on local hospitals to "release patients who can be safely discharged, postpone elective surgeries and put their staffs on call." He also asked them to prepare their own "emergency plans." The emergency declaration will allow Alameda County to seek help from the state Office of Emergency Services once local efforts to confront the crisis have been attempted (Horowitz, 1/28).