California Hospital News Roundup for the Week of April 11, 2008
Facing $10 million in budget cuts to county hospitals and clinics, Contra Costa County health care leaders are considering closing the county medical center's psychiatric unit and building a facility that would be run by a community organization, the Contra Costa Times reports.
All county departments are facing cuts in the wake of the county supervisors' decision to dedicate $31 million next year toward offsetting an unfunded liability for retiree benefits.
Other cost-saving ideas for the health services department include:
- Contracting services such as health care at jails, security, landscaping and housekeeping at county health facilities;
- Limiting the number of uninsured patients who can receive care at county facilities; and
- Establishing a new governing body to oversee the health department (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 4/8).
Sutter Health has filed a building project application with Alameda County, the first official step toward replacing Eden Medical Center, the San Francisco Business Times reports.
Officials said an environmental impact report also will be filed soon.
Sutter planners say construction could begin in 2010, pending state and local approvals (Rauber, San Francisco Business Times, 4/9).
The United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals ended its representation of about 800 specialty nurses in Southern California after Kaiser Permanente said it would cut the nurses' retirement benefits if they did not leave the union, according to UNAC/UHCP officials, the San Bernardino County Sun reports.
Union officials made the announcement after a 12-hour negotiating session with Kaiser last Friday that ended with the union calling off a five-day strike that was to start Monday.
Jennifer Resch-Silvestri, Kaiser's San Bernardino County spokesperson, said, "We can confirm that the UNAC/UHCP and Kaiser negotiators did not reach an agreement, and the union decided to withdraw their strike notice." Resch-Silvestri would not confirm or deny that Kaiser threatened to withdraw retirement benefits if the nurses did not leave the union (Dulaney, San Bernardino County Sun, 4/7).
The opening of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which was planned for May 4, will be postponed because of a water leak from the faulty installation of a commercial coffee maker, the Los Angeles Times reports.
David Feinberg, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System, said flooding on several floors of the 520-bed hospital and subsequent repairs and cleanup have pushed back a required inspection from the state Department of Public Health. Feinberg said opening of the new facility would be delayed until mid- to late June (Groves, Los Angeles Times, 4/9).
Officials from San Joaquin County's private hospitals said they are willing to meet with county officials to try to resolve a financial crisis at San Joaquin General Hospital, the Stockton Record reports.
County supervisors this week learned that the hospital's deficit could increase to $32 million by July, and they concluded that they would need financial help from private hospital operators. The private hospitals currently provide the county with a number of health-related grants and services, such as mobile clinics and assistance with resident training.
Private hospitals that said they would be willing to offer help include:
- St. Joseph's Medical Center in Stockton;
- Lodi Memorial Hospital;
- Kaiser Permanente; and
- Doctors Hospital of Manteca (Goldeen, Stockton Record, 4/8).
On Tuesday, Sonoma Valley voters rejected a $45 million bond measure that would have been used to build a new hospital, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. The measure needed a two-thirds majority for passage and received 61.6% of the vote.
The Sonoma Valley Health Care District faces a 2013 deadline to meet state earthquake safety standards for rebuilding the facility or constructing a new one; the district has requested an extension to 2020.
The cost estimate for building a new hospital is $237 million. District officials plan to try again with another bond measure (Payne, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 4/9).
In May, South Coast Medical Center's maternity center will close so the hospital can focus on care for seniors and baby boomers, hospital executives said, the Orange County Register reports.
Bruce Christian, president and CEO of the medical center, said the community's aging population has reduced the need for a maternity ward, leading to losses of nearly $1 million annually. The hospital also is trying to raise $65 million for a retrofit (Woodall, Orange County Register, 4/8).
St. Joseph Hospital will begin serving patients at the urgent care clinic at its main campus in Eureka on April 21, the Eureka Reporter reports.
The new facility will include:
- 10 treatment rooms;
- New equipment;
- Expanded services; and
- Increased physician staffing (Harrison, Eureka Reporter, 4/7).
Hospital officials have postponed completion of Sutter Surgical Hospital-North Valley until 2009 because of weather-related damage to the building and equipment, the Marysville Appeal-Democrat reports.
The $34 million, 46,000 square-foot facility, which was supposed to open this year, will house 14 beds, four operating rooms and one procedure room (Koskey, Marysville Appeal-Democrat, 4/7).