California Healthline Highlight Recent Hospital News
Deliberations entered the 35th day in a federal criminal trial alleging that Alvarado Hospital Medical Center paid doctors millions of dollars through physician-relocation agreements in exchange for referrals to the hospital, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The case is being tried for the second time because the jury in the first trial was unable to reach a verdict.
The lawsuit accuses Alvarado of manipulating figures to justify relocation agreements, inflating overhead costs, writing excessive contracts and using the agreements to ensure the loyalty of physicians and their practices.
According to health care consultant Stanley Otake, the case already has "affected recruitment practices" at hospitals and has "made hospitals more careful before entering into these agreements" (Laing, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/2).
The San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday examined concern among some physicians as Sutter "is increasingly expanding from its base as a hospital operator to take control of physician groups." The move is part of an effort to become more competitive with Kaiser Permanente, Sutter's "largest rival," the Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/2).
Irwin Hansen, CEO of Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, plans to ask the state for assistance after officials this week said the hospital had approximately one week's worth of cash reserves available, the Contra Costa Times reports. Most hospitals maintain cash reserves sufficient to operate the hospital for about 60 days (Lochner, Contra Costa Times, 3/3).
In addition, hospital administrators last week announced a temporary closure of the hospital's burn unit because of a lack of staff, the Contra Costa Times reports. The burn center is the only one in the eastern Bay Area.
Martha Iwaihara, vice president of nursing at the hospital, informed the Department of Health Services of the closure in a letter Thursday.
Registered nursing consultant Deborah Smith said the closure was necessary because there was just one skilled burn nurse available when two are required at all times.
Hospital spokesperson Gisela Hernandez said the hospital board will not vote on permanently closing the unit until a financial analysis is completed.
The one patient in the ward was moved to an intensive care unit (Lochner, Contra Costa Times, 3/2).
About 300 union members at Eden Medical Center began a week-long strike on Tuesday, demanding the same benefits they say workers at other Sutter Health hospitals and hospitals across the state receive, the Contra Costa Times reports. About half of the employees have been working without a contract since June 30, 2004.
The employees -- who are members of the Service Employees International Union, United Healthcare Workers-West -- are seeking:
- Third-party resolution for staffing disputes;
- An agreement with the hospital that it will not try to stop any unionization attempts; and
- An employee education fund for career advancement (Kazmi, Contra Costa Times, 2/28).
Ventura County supervisors on Tuesday agreed to lease a 27,000-square-foot building for a new medical clinic in Fillmore, the Ventura County Star reports. The clinic is expected to open early next year.
The clinic will offer primary and specialty medical care, urgent care and public health and behavioral health programs, according to Kirk Watson, head of the county clinic system.
Watson said the county has not yet determined whether it will close the Piru clinic; that decision will be based on how many Piru residents use the Fillmore clinic (Ventura County Star, 3/1).
The state will provide $20.4 million to Kern Medical Center to help reduce the facility's debt, the Bakersfield Californian reports. The facility has amassed about $70 million in loans from the county general fund to help finance services for Medi-Cal beneficiaries.
Assembly member Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) helped negotiate the funds. He said he would deliver the check to the county on March 10 (Branco, Bakersfield Californian, 3/3).
About 80 nurses at Mission and Community hospitals threatened to strike beginning March 11 after their paychecks bounced, in some cases twice, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Charles Idelson, communications director for the California Nurses Association, said the strike may proceed if workers feel that Karykeion, the physicians' group that owns the hospitals, is unable to pay.
Hospital officials met with staff members on Monday and Tuesday to apologize for the error and said they would pay for any bank charges and include an additional $100 in their next paychecks (Gencer, Los Angeles Times, 3/2).
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday accepted an offer to work with Salinas Valley Medical Center for 30 days while the county examines options for the sale or transfer of Natividad Medical Center, the Monterey County Herald reports. Natividad is expected to lose $23.9 million this year and about $18.7 million next year after cutting some services.
A local businessman offered to purchase the hospital for $75 million. However, lawyers hired by the county said an agreement with Salinas Valley Medical Center might make it easier for low-income patients to receive services, ease the transition for Medi-Cal beneficiaries and provide tax benefits.
Supervisors also agreed on Tuesday to make immediate cuts at the hospital to minimize losses (Livernois, Monterey County Herald, 3/1).
Building Palmdale Regional Medical Center will take longer and cost about $20 million more than anticipated, city and hospital officials said last week, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
The hospital now is expected to cost $100 million, up from $80 million, because of an increase in material costs. Officials expect the hospital to open in December 2007, rather than earlier that year as was previously expected.
When the medical center complex is complete, it is expected to create 800 to 1,000 new jobs and have an economic impact of $359 million. The hospital is expected to open with 171 beds and 35 emergency department beds (Skeen, Los Angeles Daily News, 2/25).
A recently released report by a consulting company suggests that Sutter Medical Center reduce faculty and resident doctors' salaries to maintain a program that trains residents and provides medical care for low-income patients, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.
Sutter is re-evaluating the $2.6 million per year program as it tries to stem losses at the hospital.
The consulting firm also recommends that other hospitals share in the cost of the program, but "few say they are prepared" to provide funding for the training program, the Press Democrat reports (Hillenmeyer, Santa Rose Press Democrat, 2/28).