California Healthline Highlights Recent Health-Related County Action
Several county boards of supervisors last week acted on health care-related issues. Summaries appear below.
The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 30 voted unanimously to approve $7.6 million in additional funds for salaries and bonuses for Kern Medical Center personnel, the Bakersfield Californian reports. The funds will be available for contracts for nurses and staff members working in public health, mental health, human services, and aging and adult services.
With the new funds, signing bonuses double to $6,000, and pay for nurses and pharmacists will increase by double-digit percentages, depending on the position. Entry-level hospital positions will receive a 15% increase in pay with management-level positions receiving a 19% increase.
The increase in contract salaries is retroactive to July 9 and lasts one year. Depending on county and hospital finances, the deal might be extended after that.
In addition, the board approved the hiring of a full-time budget analyst to focus exclusively on KMC and the creation of a specialized committee to address financial issues at the hospital, as well as a committee to address hospital personnel issues (Wenner, Bakersfield Californian, 8/30).
The Kings County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 30 approved a wage increase and health care contribution for county In-Home Supportive Services workers, the Fresno Bee reports.
The contract -- which would run through June 30, 2007 -- would increase workers' hourly wage from $6.75 to $7.50 and would contribute 60 cents per hour to health care coverage. County IHSS workers currently do not have health care benefits.
The 1,400 IHSS workers in the county must approve the agreement before the Department of Social Services reviews it. If approved, the contract could take effect as early as October (Jimenez, Fresno Bee, 8/31).
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 30 ordered the county Department of Health Services to tighten oversight of county doctors' time cards, after the release of a confidential audit that found errors in the time cards, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The audit stated that DHS did not adequately monitor doctors' work habits, "allowing a culture to develop in which physicians showed disdain for filling out timecards and supervisors did not check the cards."
Supervisors directed county DHS at all county hospitals to implement a standardized sign-in system for doctors and begin comparing doctors' sign-in logs with their timecards. Supervisors ordered eight additional recommendations from the audit to be implemented (Leonard, Los Angeles Times, 8/31).
Health care costs for Ventura County government employees are remaining steady after several years of increases, largely because of consistent prescription drug prices, according to Barry Zimmer, county deputy executive officer for benefits, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A healthy work force, high employee enrollment in a cost-effective county health insurance plan and a national slowing in rate increases also contributed to costs leveling off for the county, according to the Times.
The county is expecting to pay an estimated $35.7 million for health care coverage for about 5,600 employees in 2006, nearly the same as 2005. County health insurance costs increased by 39% in 2003, 9% in 2004 and 17% this year (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 8/31).