California Healthline Highlights Recent Hospital News
Blue Cross of California on Oct. 28 sent a letter to beneficiaries informing them of stalled contract negotiations with Beaver Medical Group and possible termination of its contract with Beaver Jan.1, the San Bernardino County Sun reports. As of Monday, no new contract had been settled, according to Blue Cross Regional Vice President Robert Alaniz.
The decision means more than 16,000 Blue Cross beneficiaries, excluding pregnant women, the terminally ill and newborns, will be required to choose another provider or accept a new assignment from the insurer.
John Goodman, chief administrator of Beaver, said contact negotiations were going well until mid-October when they abruptly stopped. However, Beaver on Nov. 1 sent a letter to Blue Cross beneficiaries saying that it expects a "satisfactory agreement" will be reached by Dec. 31 (Wells, San Bernardino County Sun, 11/8).
California Pacific Medical Center and SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West announced on Thursday that they had reached a tentative agreement to end a two-month strike by service workers at the hospital, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports.
Union members planned a vote to ratify the contract Friday. Union officials and CPMC did not release details of the contract, which would expire in June 2008.
Union President Sal Rosselli said the terms of the contract are similar to those in contracts negotiated with other hospitals (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 11/11).
Catholic Healthcare West and Kaiser Permanente plan to petition the Sacramento County Emergency Medical Services Agency to win level II trauma center designation, the Sacramento Bee reports.
CHW would expand Methodist Hospital to accommodate the trauma center. Methodist is planning a $25 million expansion that would increase the number of emergency department beds from 14 to 29 and more than double the size of the ED. The project is part of a $100 million planned expansion of the hospital over 10 years.
Kaiser's plan would expand Sacramento Medical Center to include a 136-bed tower, an outpatient surgery center, an 822-space parking facility, renovations and expansion of the ED and an outpatient trauma follow-up clinic.
The county first must prove there is a need for an additional trauma unit in the area and that the hospital will be able to handle trauma patients, according to Wendy Nugent, assistant director for patient care services at the University of California-Davis Medical Center. Only one group will receive the designation if it is approved by the county (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 11/9).
Doctors Medical Center of Modesto on Jan. 3 will reduce staff by about 4%, the equivalent of about 75 full-time staff positions, in an effort to streamline health care delivery, DMC officials told staff last week, the Modesto Bee reports. The staff reductions will affect about 80 full- and part-time workers, including some managers, nursing assistants, technicians, office clerks, program coordinators and patient liaisons.
Most tasks performed by nursing assistants and patient liaisons, who will be affected most by the cuts, likely will fall to registered and licensed nurses at the facility, according to the Bee.
DMC, owned by Tenet Healthcare, said it will work with the Employment Development Department and the Stanislaus Employment Development and Workforce Alliance to help employees find jobs (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 11/5).
The SEIU United Health Care Workers-West on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Doctors Medical Center-San Pablo/Pinole on behalf of 61 nursing assistants who received layoff notices last week, the Contra Costa Times reports.
The lawsuit alleges DMC failed to notify the nursing assistants 60 days prior to being laid off, as required by state labor codes. In addition, the union says the hospital did not bargained in good faith and violated state law by requiring licensed vocational nurses to take on the responsibilities of the laid off nursing assistants.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for lost wages and benefits, a reinstatement of the nurses' jobs and civil penalties of $500 per day for each of the 61 nursing assistants.
Hospital officials said laying off the nursing assistants is necessary to save $1.5 million annually to stay in business (Lochner, Contra Costa Times, 11/8).
Kaiser Permanente officials confirmed the deaths of two more patients at its hospitals in Santa Clara and San Jose caused by staff errors, the San Jose Mercury News reports. At least four deaths related to staff errors -- three involved wrong medications or the wrong dosage of a medication, and one involved an elderly man who choked on food he should not have been given -- have occurred at the facilities in the past 13 months (Beck, San Jose Mercury News, 11/10).
A Department of Health Services report released Wednesday criticized Kaiser for the long delay in reporting one of the deaths, saying that it "prevented this department and other reporting agencies from conducting an investigation to protect the health and safety of all patients" (Sullivan, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/10).
Earlier this week, Kaiser officials said they have implemented new policies to prevent wrongful administration of medications.
Under the new policy, Santa Clara Medical Center requires two registered nurses to initial medication bags before administering "high-risk" drugs. In addition, all medications must be labeled with brightly colored stickers, according to Scott Vivona, branch chief of Bay Area field operations for DHS.
At Santa Teresa Medical Center, staff have been retrained on proper medication administration procedures, and the hospital has instituted "time out" periods before medications are given to make sure staff are double-checking medicines. The hospital also is limiting retrieval and delivery of chemotherapy drugs to specially trained staff and requiring two signatures on medications before they are given to patients (Sullivan, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/5).
An audit of Kern Medical Center released Wednesday found inadequate payment controls at the hospital, the Bakersfield Californian reports.
Auditors found an overpayment of more than $329,000 by KMC to Kern's Women's Health Group and a potential conflict of interest with Leonard Perez, who chairs the hospital's obstetrics and gynecology departments and serves as president of the women's health group, which is considered a private practice.
The Kern County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will review the audit and determine which recommendations can be immediately implemented (Branco, Bakersfield Californian, 11/10).
The Department of Health Services is reviewing a change of ownership application for Rancho Specialty Hospital, formerly Angels Hospital, which could open by the end of the year if the agency approves its operating license, the Business Press reports.
DHS suspended Angels' license in May 2004 after problems with understaffing, patient care and documentation were discovered. Hearings on whether the facility's operating license should be permanently suspended are scheduled for Dec. 6 to Dec. 8, according to DHS spokesperson Norma Arceo.
The 55-bed facility will provide long-term acute care to adult patients, including those who need respiratory treatment, wound care and treatment for infectious diseases (Martin Tucker, Business Press, 11/7).
Tri-City Medical Center's registered nurses last week joined the California Nurses Association and will begin negotiating a contract with the hospital that could result in changes to salaries and give nurses more authority in caring for patients, according to CNA organizer Roy Hong, the North County Times reports.
Hong said the contract likely will include a provision that allows nurses to form a committee to discuss patient care and formally present concerns to hospital officials. CNA also is likely to pursue a salary system that regulates raises and starting pay based on experience, rather than a merit-based system, Hong said.
Contract negotiations could take several months to a year, according to Hong (Esola, North County Times, 11/4).