Alameda County Hospital Authority Faces Deficit, Personnel Issues
Five years after the Alameda County Board of Supervisors decided to create the Medical Center Hospital Authority to run the county's medical system, the "bold experiment is faltering," and five of the 11 trustees on the authority's board resigned after the chief executive was fired, the Los Angeles Times reports. Created in 1998, the authority was charged with helping run the hospital system -- including three hospitals and three clinics -- more efficiently and "make it more competitive in the managed care environment," according to the Times. System officials closed two clinics in July as part of an effort to help eliminate a $12 million deficit; the current deficit is estimated at $63 million. But county officials say the closures were "too little, too late," adding that the authority's board "never learned to live within its means," despite $308 million in loans, cash and other payments from the county over the last five years, according to the Times.
For the past 18 months, the county has been sending $13 million to the health system every two weeks to "keep [it] afloat and cover the payroll," the Times reports. In total, county officials say, the authority owes Alameda County $166 million, adding that they do not expect the health authority to repay much of that debt. "Financially speaking, they got into a hole so big it's threatening the rest of the county," Gail Steele, president of the board of supervisors, said. But health authority officials say that they were "hamstrung from the start" because of a lack of funds from the county to run the $450 million-a-year operation and attribute the authority's deficit to the rising number of uninsured patients, the increasing cost of care and declining government reimbursements for public hospitals (Horowitz, Los Angeles Times, 10/11).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.