California Healthline Highlights Recent Hospital News
California State University trustees on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an expansion plan for San Diego State University that includes a one-million-square-foot office building near Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The expansion plan -- which also includes a hotel, a new dormitory and faculty housing - would increase the number of students on the campus from 33,000 to 50,000 by 2025.
Alvarado Hospital officials believe the construction of the office building would displace medical facilities and potentially block access to emergency services, Alvarado attorney Michael McDade said (Petrillo, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/21).
The Antelope Valley Hospital District on Sept. 16 issued a statement saying the new hospital being built in Palmdale has a moral responsibility to accept Medi-Cal patients because the district is "taking steps to help the city of Palmdale build a hospital for the entire community," the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
According to the district, as much as 45% of Palmdale residents younger than age 65 would not be able to receive services at the new center, including 75% of obstetrical deliveries, if it does not participate in Medi-Cal.
The district also released a letter by AVHD CEO Les Wong on Sept. 16 written to City Manager Bob Toone that states, "Turning away so many patients in need not only conflicts with the major reason the city has advocated for a new hospital in Palmdale, but effectively undermines the basis for substantial taxpayer subsidy to [Universal Health Services] under the city's development agreement."
Bob Trautman, CEO of UHS' Lancaster Community Hospital, said UHS will look into a Medi-Cal contract, but it is too early to begin analysis on such a contract because the hospital will not open until 2007.
Mayor Jim Ledford said the city has asked UHS to look into a Medi-Cal agreement but added that it is "too late to impose a condition on a contract that is already signed, sealed and is moving forward" (Skeen, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/17).
Downey Regional Medical Center officials on Wednesday announced an agreement with Medi-Cal that will increase the reimbursement rate to the hospital to offset the cost of caring for uninsured patients, the Los Angeles Times reports. Hospital officials in July said they might have to close Downey's emergency department after losing $7 million to $11 million in 2004 for treating uninsured patients.
The deal, which will take effect Nov. 3, is projected to save about $1 million annually, according to Downey Chief Operating Officer Rob Fuller.
Fuller said the hospital also hopes to receive state and federal funding for "distressed hospitals," but how much money would be available and when Downey could receive such money is unclear.
In addition, hospital officials said they will try to reach an agreement with local paramedics so fewer patients from outside the community are diverted to Downey's ED.
The hospital predicts continued financial losses through its ED, but officials said the losses will be less than in recent years (Pierson, Los Angeles Times, 9/22).
Doctors who work full time for Kern County at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield will not have to fill out timecards to account for their work hours, county supervisors decided Tuesday, the Bakersfield Californian reports.
According to the Californian, the topic under discussion at a meeting of the supervisors on Tuesday was how to make doctors who are paid for full-time hospital jobs but who also run private practices account for their time. An investigation by the Californian earlier this year showed that two obstetricians had timecards indicating they worked shifts at the hospital at the same time they worked shifts at noncounty clinics elsewhere.
Supervisors rejected the timecards practice on Tuesday but began considering a new rule that would bar doctors from working at their private practices while on county time. The supervisors also are considering an incentive system based on performance measures instead of hourly requirements.
According to KMC CEO Peter Bryan, the issue primarily concerns surgeons and OB/GYNs at the hospital (Wenner, Bakersfield Californian, 9/20).
Santa Paula Memorial Hospital, which closed in December 2003 after filing for bankruptcy, will reopen in January, Ventura County officials announced on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors agreed to purchase the 49-bed hospital for $2.75 million and reopen it as an arm of Ventura County Medical Center.
Pierre Durand, head of the county Health Care Agency, said agency employees will spend three months rehabilitating the hospital. He said it likely will take 18 months for the hospital to recapture its entire patient base but estimated that it will perform between 600 and 800 infant deliveries annually once it is fully operational (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 9/20).
Tri-City Healthcare District union organizers on Monday announced they have enough employee signatures to require the district to recognize the hospital's first nurses union under the California Nurses Association umbrella, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
According to state law, if a majority of employees in a group turn in signed cards supporting a union, the employer must recognize the union and no election is needed. Last week, union organizers notified Tri-City officials that they had cards signed by more than 50% of the district's registered nursing staff.
Acting Director of Human Resources at Tri-County Mark Weinberg said hospital officials will work with organizers to select a neutral third party to verify the signatures (Klawonn, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/20).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Monday reported on the decision, the latest in a series of such decisions by nurses at North San Diego County hospitals. The segment includes comments from Victoria Van Deerlin, a nurse at Tri-City (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 9/19). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
A $50 million new health clinic slated to open in 2008 in southern Santa Clara County will go out to bid next month and will be financed by a bond offering scheduled for next year, the Gilroy Dispatch reports.
The Valley Health Clinic Gilroy will offer obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology and public services, including immunizations and nutrition programs for low-income women and children. The clinic also will include a pharmacy and digital X-ray diagnostic equipment.
Many services at the clinic will be moved from St. Joseph's Family Center in San Martin. The clinic will provide services for all county residents, but especially uninsured, indigent residents (King, Gilroy Dispatch, 9/20).
Vibra Healthcare has announced plans to build a $22 million, 60-bed hospital in Clovis that will concentrate on providing long-term, acute care hospital treatment, the Fresno Bee reports. Vibra owns eight hospitals in six states, including a facility in Redding and the San Joaquin Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Fresno.
The new facility, slated to open in the summer of 2007, expects to hire about 350 workers. Construction is being financed by a real estate investment trust (Correa, Fresno Bee, 9/20).