Alameda County Medical Center Announces Outside Panel Will Help Cut Costs
A group of consultants as early as this week will begin working with Alameda County Medical Center to help the health network reduce its estimated $71 million budget deficit, network interim CEO Efton Hall told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday, the Contra Costa Times reports. Efton said that the panel, which will be asked to develop a plan to balance the center's budget by Jan. 19, likely would be selected Wednesday from one of the four groups interviewed by the network board of trustees. The team will be asked to choose cost-reducing strategies from a list developed by Efton's office and the medical center's board of directors as part of the network's budget plan (Ashley, Contra Costa Times, 1/7). The budget plan, which was approved by the board of trustees in December, includes proposals to require that uninsured patients in Alameda County seeking nonurgent care at all county-run hospitals must qualify for Medi-Cal or another insurance plan or sign a document agreeing to pay part of the cost of care beginning in early 2004. The budget plan includes a measure to eliminate 176 full-time positions and possibly close some hospital wards, lay off other employees and eliminate some specialty services. Trustees also approved delaying the opening of a new critical care unit at Highland Hospital, consolidating vacant beds and instituting mandatory and voluntary unpaid days off for nonurgent staff to reduce costs (California Healthline, 12/10/03). Hall said, "We are not looking for one-time improvements. We want to achieve changes that will be sustainable over time." However, supervisors were "skeptical" about limiting the panel to budget strategies proposed by network staff, according to the Times. Supervisor Scott Haggerty said, "I think the turn around team needs to have the latitude to come in and make the tough decisions that need to be made" (Contra Costa Times, 1/7).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.