California Healthline Rounds Up Recent Hospital News
The Palmdale City Council on Monday approved a resolution to offer the Antelope Valley Hospital District $500,000 to put toward construction of a hospital on the eastern side of the city, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. However, in a letter to the city, the hospital district's CEO, Les Wong, questioned the offer in light of a recent debate between the city and the hospital district over construction of a private hospital in West Palmdale.
According to the Daily News, the city has rejected a request by the hospital district to require the West Palmdale facility, which is being constructed by Universal Health Services, to treat uninsured patients and Medi-Cal beneficiaries (Skeen, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/27). Medi-Cal rules require hospitals to transfer Medi-Cal beneficiaries to hospitals with contracts with the program, meaning the West Palmdale facility will transfer Medi-Cal beneficiaries to Antelope Valley Hospital.
The City Council is proposing asking Antelope Valley Hospital District to drop its opposition to the UHS facility in return for the city funding for a new facility, which would have 200 beds. Antelope Valley would have to submit plans for the new hospital by Oct. 31, 2006, and would have to complete construction of the facility by the fall of 2010 (Skeen, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/25).
NPR's "News & Notes with Ed Gordon" on Thursday profiled San Francisco General Hospital's cultural diversity training courses and locked inpatient focus units dedicated to providing culturally competent psychiatric care for specific groups. According to NPR, the debate over mandatory cultural training for medical workers has "occupied the headlines" of medical publications nationwide.
New Jersey in April passed a law requiring physicians to take such courses before acquiring medical licenses, and California is considering a similar bill, NPR reports.
The segment includes comments from Anmol Mahal, president-elect of the California Medical Association, and Francis Lu and Heather Hall, psychiatrists involved in the ethnic focus units (Baba, "News & Notes with Ed Gordon," NPR, 9/29). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
A joint operation between Ventura County Medical Center and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles could provide pediatric cancer services in Ventura County, the Ventura County Star reports.
Chemotherapy, diagnostic services, inpatient care and treatment for nonmalignant blood diseases such as anemia will be available in Ventura County if the program is approved. Nurses, doctors, pharmacists, dieticians, pathologists, radiologists and others would be involved in the joint program.
While the plan is still under development, Ventura County hospital administrator Mike Powers said he expects to take it to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors oversight committee for final approval in six to nine months. Powers said the cost of the program has not been determined.
The Ventura County Chapter of the National Charity League Juniors has raised $90,000 for the program (Wilson, Ventura County Star, 9/28).
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved Arrowhead Regional Medical Center's application to recover $1 million of their spending used to treat undocumented immigrants, Knight Ridder/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports.
The money, coming from the 2003 Medicare law, will cover part of the hospital's $83.7 million expenditures on treating patients who did not or could not pay for their care, including undocumented immigrants (Well, Knight Ridder/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, 9/28).
California Pacific Medical Center will take over operations of St. Luke's Hospital in the Mission District under a plan announced on Monday by officials from both hospitals, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
According to the Chronicle, the 260-bed St. Luke's has been losing about $3 million per month and could lose $24 million to $26 million this year, largely because of a high volume of uninsured patients and Medi-Cal beneficiaries, as well as lower reimbursement rates than other hospitals. Officials for the two hospitals, which are both affiliated with Sutter Health, said the decision for CPMC to take over St. Luke's was necessary to prevent St. Luke's from closing.
Critics of the plan -- including some labor unions -- said the merger could result in the closure of some units or loss of services at St. Luke's, as well as a loss of commitment to care for the uninsured.
Christine McMurry, a spokesperson for CPMC, said such concerns are unfounded and that "[a]ll alternatives" under consideration involve keeping St. Luke's open.
CPMC CEO Martin Brotman said the hospital will invest $35 million to $40 million to expand and rebuild St. Luke's emergency department and enhance some services.
The state attorney general must approve the merger.
St. Luke's board also voted on Monday to close the hospital's inpatient psychiatric unit, effective Friday, for financial reasons. The closure will affect fewer than five patients (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/27).
The Desert Healthcare District on Tuesday voted to pursue legal action against Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare to require the hospital chain to maintain the psychiatric unit at its Desert Regional Medical Center, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
Tenet, which leases the hospital from the district, announced Sept. 7 that it will close the 27-bed unit because the hospital needed more space to expand the often-full surgical center.
The board also unanimously voted to use a dispute-resolution clause with Tenet to try to keep the program open. Only one other psychiatric facility serves the Coachella Valley.
Tenet California CEO C. Barry Dykes said in a statement that the company did not violate any agreement and would "aggressively defend its actions in this matter" if necessary (Hermann/Olson, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/28).
Hospital administrators on Tuesday also announced that they will maintain outpatient psychiatric services through the end of the year but will not reopen inpatient psychiatric services (McCain, Desert Sun, 9/28).
The board of the West Contra Costa Healthcare district on Tuesday voted to postpone until its October meeting a vote on a plan to close three units at Doctors Medical Center, including the burn, wound and chemical dependence centers. The three units currently are losing money, and the hospital lost $3 million in the last three months.
Hospital CEO Irwin Hansen, who proposed the plan, said the closures would save nearly $2.4 million annually and would help ensure the long-term viability of DMC.
According to the Contra Costa Times, the board will reconsider the plan in October, pending any changes in the financial situation, including grants or other cash infusions.
Ronald Sato, director of the hospital's burn center, said by the end of the year he could obtain pledges for $2 million from Chevron and other area refineries to keep the burn center open (Lochner, Contra Costa Times, 9/28).
Enloe Medical Center officials on Tuesday announced that they will contest a federal ruling that it lost an election to Service Employees International Union, the Chico Enterprise-Record reports.
An election in April 2004 of the hospital's 600 employees gave SEIU the right to represent Enloe employees. The measure passed 263-245, although Enloe officials contest that some employees were given improper ballots, possibly creating errors during voting.
"All we are asking for is a new, fair election. We stand ready to revote today," a letter to all Enloe employees stated.
If the union allows for a new election, SEIU could be voted in or out quickly. If a new election is not requested, the final results might not be known for more than a year.
SEIU negotiator Dana Simon said that there is "not one shred of credible, objective" evidence the election was flawed (Mitchell, Chico Enterprise-Record, 9/27).
Hospitals in the Inland area are expecting to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years to comply with state seismic standards, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
Hospital officials agree the changes are necessary, but some say meeting the state's 2008 deadline is unrealistic. Hospitals argue that the costs for the effort could affect patient care by diverting money to construction.
The state is allowing extension to 2013 if hospitals can show that meeting the earlier deadline would disrupt services. So far, more than 200 hospitals across the state, including 13 in the Inland area, have filed for extensions.
The California Hospital Association, which says hospitals could face financial disasters, is lobbying for a $5 billion bond measure to help hospitals pay for construction costs. A competing bill would make $5 billion in bond money available only for not-for-profit and public hospitals. If the second bill is rejected, the bill asks the state to waive construction deadlines for hospitals with high debt.
A third bill would extend the deadline for some buildings to 2020.
Several labor unions, including the California Nurses Association, have opposed the bills, arguing that the delays put workers and patients at risk (Olson/Gang, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/27).
The Kaweah Delta Hospital District last week abandoned plans to turn a 16-bed unit at the Kaweah Delta Mental Health Center in Visalia to an adolescent psychiatric inpatient hospital. The plan, which would have eliminated the need for teens in Tulare County to travel two hours for inpatient psychiatric care, was developed in part to address teen suicide in Tulare County.
Health officials in Tulare, Fresno, Merced, Kings, Madera and Mariposa counties would not commit to the project.
Kaweah Delta could not financially support the operation on its own, district CEO Lindsay Mann said (Florez, Visalia Times-Delta, 9/23).
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to require the board's auditor and the county Department of Health Services to review invoices from Navigant Consulting related to its work at Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. Navigant was hired by the county to improve care at King/Drew.
A review by the Los Angeles Times found that the firm had "double-billed for plane tickets" and billed the county for first-class travel and trips unrelated to its work at the hospital. Navigant has sent a team to discuss the bills with the county. The auditor and DHS are to report their findings next Tuesday (Los Angeles Times, 9/28).
KPCC's "KPCC News" on Wednesday reported on Navigant's private apology to Los Angeles County supervisors. The KPCC segment includes comments from Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Navigant Chair and CEO William Goodyear (Rabe, "KPCC News," KPCC, 9/28). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.