California Hospital News Roundup for the Week of April 18, 2008
Prime Healthcare Services is positioning itself to buy Brotman Medical Center after purchasing $18 million in loans from the center's primary lender, the Los Angeles Times reports. Brotman has been searching for buyers willing to help pay off its debt and invest in its aging facilities.
However, Brotman executives said they are concerned about some of Prime's business practices, including reduction of services and the cancellation of private insurance contracts.
The executives also said another party is interested in purchasing the medical center and keeping the current management. They hope the deal can close in the next few weeks.
If the hospital cannot pay its debts, the Bankruptcy Court could sell the hospital through a public auction, putting Prime in a "strong position" to acquire the hospital, according to the Times (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 4/17).
Cardinal Health has provided a $25,000 grant to Children's Hospital Central California for a program to help ensure that families who do not speak English understand how to care for their children after discharge, the Fresno Bee reports.
The grant initially will pay for audio versions of patient discharge instructions in Hmong, Mixteca and Spanish. The audio instructions will advise patients to contact their doctor if they are unclear about any of the information (Fresno Bee, 4/12).
Last week, the Senate Health Committee approved two bills that could affect a dispute between Tenet Healthcare, which owns Encino-Taranza Regional Medical Center, and HCP, the real-estate investment trust that leases the medical campus to Tenet, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
Tenet announced plans to sell the medical center four years ago, but the sale has been stalled because of the dispute with HCP. The measures are designed to push Tenet and HCP into "selling off the medical center once and for all," the Daily News reports.
If there is no progress before the hospital's lease expires in February 2009, the hospital could have to close, according to the Daily News.
The two approved bills are:
- SB 1734 by Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Los Angeles), which would prohibit real-estate trusts from selling hospital land to for-profit hospital operators if the sale would close the facility or reduce its services; and
- SB 1688 by Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), which would require new for-profit hospital operators to maintain the same level of services as those operating the hospital prior to them (Los Angeles Daily News, 4/13).
On Monday, the Kern County Board of Supervisors discussed Kern Medical Center's billing problems and hired the Jacobus Consulting firm to help fix them, the Bakersfield Californian reports.
The supervisors approved a one-year, $1.17 million contract with the firm to:
- Review the county's billing system;
- Improve the billing process; and
- Train current staff to run a more efficient system (Burger, Bakersfield Californian, 4/14).
Hensler said Jacobus could save $3.75 million for the hospital, which owes the county general fund $67 million (Burger, Bakersfield Californian, 4/12).
On Tuesday, a federal labor judge recommended a new vote on whether the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West should continue to represent about 200 certified nurse assistants and other workers at the O'Connor Woods retirement community in Stockton, the Stockton Record reports.
The recommendation came after the union filed 13 objections to a November 2007 election in which employees voted 105-102 to decertify the union. The judge sustained three of the objections, including threats by supervisors that some employees would lose their jobs or benefits if the union won the election.
The union and O'Connor Woods have been in negotiations for two years but have never had a labor contract (Goldeen, Stockton Record, 4/17).
On Monday, Tenet Healthcare agreed to sell the University of Southern California University Hospital and USC Norris Cancer Hospital to USC, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Two years ago, USC filed a lawsuit seeking to force Tenet to sell ownership and control of University Hospital because the hospital operator allegedly did not make investments as agreed upon. Tenet denied the allegations and filed a counterclaim against the university in November 2008.
Tenet and the university said they were seeking to resolve the litigation through the sale terms of the hospitals. They did not disclose financial terms of the sale agreement (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 4/15).