California Healthline Highlights Recent Hospital News
The Alameda County Medical Center Board of Trustees on June 28 approved a $389 million budget for fiscal year 2005-2006, including a $253,000 surplus, the Oakland Tribune reports.
ACMC administrators attributed the surplus in part to Measure A, a half-cent sales tax increase that began in July 2004 and is expected to generate about $72 million annually for ACMC; $3.3 million in increased revenue, including $1.5 million from re-opened outpatient pharmacies; and a projected 7% increase in obstetrics patients.
The budget includes $24 million for nursing staff -- up from $12 million this fiscal year -- in part to cover the cost of out-of-state nurses temporarily filling ACMC's 150 vacant full-time nursing positions (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 6/30).
In related news, hospitals in San Bernardino and Riverside counties are planning construction projects over the next 10 years that could cost as much as $3 billion, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports. The construction plans are being driven by stricter state seismic safety standards, growing populations and aging baby boomers.
Projects at Kaiser Permanente -- totaling $1 billion -- include new medical office buildings, a new hospital in Ontario and a replacement hospital for Fontana Medical Center.
Another local project is a $400 million building program at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, including a $40 million expansion of the emergency department and inpatient ward and a $165 million inpatient wing.
In addition, Inland Valley Regional Medical Center in Wildomar and Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta together are spending $150 million on construction, including building a 44-bed medical-surgical inpatient ward at Inland Valley and a new hospital in Temecula.
Other projects will add specialized services -- such as a NICU and a cardiac care unit -- at hospitals in Banning, Indio, Corona, Riverside, Redlands and Loma Linda (Beeman, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 7/7).
City officials in Palmdale on Tuesday released a letter formally rejecting a $9.3 million offer from the Antelope Valley Hospital District to buy land where the privately owned Palmdale Regional Medical Center is to be built, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
AVHD officials have said they are concerned the new medical center will attract the business of many of the area's insured patients and leave Antelope Valley Hospital with more patients who are unable to pay for care. According to the Daily News, city officials say that AVHD's efforts to buy the land "are an attempt to block competition in violation of antitrust laws" and "set the stage for eminent-domain proceedings to acquire the land" (Skeen, Los Angeles Daily News, 7/6).
Owners of Brea Community Hospital would pay more than $10 million to the hospital's creditors under a proposed settlement agreement in a lawsuit alleging that the owners attempted to hide from creditors the proceeds of a planned sale of the hospital's real estate, the Orange County Register reports.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge John Ryan will consider the settlement proposal at a July 25 hearing. Jess Bressi, an attorney for hospital owners Gaetano Zanfini and Marc Grossman, said it is "very unlikely" Brea Community will reopen.
In the lawsuit, Richard Diamond -- the U.S. trustee appointed to represent unsecured creditors after the hospital filed for bankruptcy protection in January -- sought to freeze a $3 million deposit that Zanfini and Grossman had received as part of a January deal in which they planned to sell some of the hospital's real estate for $42 million. Diamond said the money should go to the creditors.
The $10.3 million settlement would cover most of the hospital's $13 million outstanding debt and permit the owners to sell the real estate, the Register reports (Galvin, Orange County Register, 7/7).
Planning commissioners on Wednesday delayed consideration of a proposed 29-bed California Heart and Surgical Hospital until Aug. 3 to provide the public with more time to comment on a new air quality study, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
Loma Linda Community Development Director Deborah Woldruff told commissioners that a change to the law meant that a previous air-quality study was insufficient (Santschi, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 7/7).
Critics of the proposed hospital -- who have said it would take revenue for surgeries and treatments with higher charges away from public hospitals -- decided to wait until next month's meeting to express their concerns (Wall, San Bernardino Sun, 7/7).
Doctors Medical Center lost nearly $1 million in May after reporting a profit of about $400,000 for the first four months of the year, the Contra Costa Times reports.
Hospital CEO Irwin Hansen attributed the loss to lower-than-expected patient volumes and higher-than-expected expenses. Hansen said he plans to address personnel costs by hiring about 100 nurses to replace temporary nurses who currently account for about one-fifth of the hospital's staff.
CFO Dev Mahadevan said the hospital had limited financial reserves because it has been operated by the West Contra Costa Healthcare District since August 2004 and has not been building reserves for an extended period. The hospital had previously been managed by Tenet Healthcare (Lochner, Contra Costa Times, 7/8).
Via Christi Health Systems' agreement to sell St. Rose Hospital for $22 million would "make it extremely difficult or impossible" for the hospital's local board of trustees, which wishes to buy the hospital, to pay off its significant debt, trustee Sherman Balch said at a public meeting on Wednesday, the Oakland Tribune reports. Kansas-based VCHS is a Catholic organization that has been trying to divest the hospital for several years.
"This could result in closing the hospital," Balch said, adding that the board initially offered $10 million last year.
Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele said the hospital's closure would severely damage health services throughout the county. The hospital is "known for its decades of service to the uninsured," the Tribune reports.
The state attorney general can, as part of approval for a hospital sale, set conditions on how the hospital maintains services.
Deputy Attorney General Mark Urban, who is reviewing the proposed transfer, said a decision on the transaction is expected by July 15 (O'Brien, Oakland Tribune, 7/7).
Health Net has notified physicians who practice at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital that it plans to stop directly contracting with doctors' offices on a fee-for-service basis and instead will administer HMO patient care under a managed care contract, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. According to Health Net, the move is designed to reduce costs, and officials expect most doctors to agree to the change.
However, some physicians have informed HMO members that they might not accept Health Net HMO insurance next year. As many as 60 physicians -- most of whom practice at Santa Rosa Memorial -- and 40,000 patients could be affected by the change.
According to the Press Democrat, Health Net is making similar changes in San Francisco and San Mateo counties (Rose, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 7/1).
Selma Community Hospital has sent termination notices to 375 employees, who will be rehired by Adventist Health as part of a reorganization, hospital officials announced Tuesday, the Fresno Bee reports.
Adventist -- which operates Hanford Community Medical Center, Central Valley General Hospital and Selma -- is consolidating licensing and operations at Selma with the other two hospitals. The goal is to make the three-hospital system "more attractive to HMOs and other insurers," the Fresno Bee reports.
The management team at the hospitals was combined earlier this year, and the full transition is expected to be completed by Sept. 1.
Douglas Lafferty, chief operating officer for Selma and Hanford, said there will be no loss of services and services at Selma could expand under a combined physicians group (Correa, Fresno Bee, 7/6).
After several months of negotiations, Sharp Healthcare on Tuesday terminated its contract with Blue Cross of California because of a disagreement over reimbursement rates, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Sharp has said Blue Cross is the lowest-paying commercial health insurer and must increase its reimbursement rate. Blue Cross said Sharp is the highest paid hospital in its local system and added that it could not pay what Sharp requested. There are no plans to resume negotiations.
More than 250,000 San Diego County Blue Cross members will have to pay more to visit Sharp hospitals. Blue Cross plans to file a transitional coverage plan for its members who are patients at Sharp. The Department of Managed Health Care previously denied Blue Cross' original plan.
The contract termination affects hospital care only (Skidmore, San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/2).