California Hospital News Roundup for the Week of May 23, 2008
A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Blue Shield of California in a lawsuit over the insurer's contract with Alvarado Hospital, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
Blue Shield sued Alvarado in July 2007 after the hospital's new owners began charging the insurer prices that were higher than its 2006 contract with then-owner Tenet Healthcare.
Alvarado maintained the contract had expired in December 2006 after Blue Shield ignored a request to transfer the agreement to the new owners and demanded lower reimbursement rates. The contract expires this year.
The ruling "clears the way for Blue Shield members to return to Alvarado for elective procedures," the Union-Tribune reports. The insurer's members were restricted to using only emergency services at the hospital while the suit was pending (Darcé, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/17).
Community Memorial Hospital has filed a lawsuit against its former legal counsel and accounting firm alleging it committed malpractice, fraud and conspiracy by covering up alleged misconduct by a former administrator, the Ventura County Star reports.
The suit states that if the hospital had known more about the actions of former administrator Michael Bakst, it would have dismissed him before fall 2003 and reduced his multimillion-dollar severance package.
Bakst was ousted after a long power struggle with physicians, who sued the hospital in 2003 over management issues.
The complaints about Bakst centered on whether he was submitting false claims for personal expenses, receiving reimbursements for expenses that had little or no documentation, and making significant payments to physicians.
Representatives from the firms denied the accusations (Wilson/Kisken, Ventura County Star, 5/20).
Emanuel Medical Center is developing plans for a new building that will house administration and business operations to create more space at the hospital for expanding clinical areas, the Modesto Bee reports.
The new building would include hospital departments such as administration, education, accounting, and purchasing and supply operation, according to Emanuel spokesperson John Gilbert.
The hospital will not add patient beds, but the new building will allow the administrative areas to be remodeled for a larger laboratory and pharmacy, as well as a new pediatric unit (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 5/17).
Debate continues over the number of beds at the new Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center facility, which is slated to open in October, the Los Angeles Times reports.
County Supervisor Gloria Molina and others are pushing to allocate another 19 beds to pediatric patients. Currently, 25 beds are set aside for children.
Supporters of that plan maintain that the hospital's pediatric residency program could be forced to shut down if the 19 beds are not added, hurting children's access to specialty care in the eastern part of the county.
Molina was a central figure in an earlier debate over the number of beds to be included in the facility. Molina had pushed for the hospital to include 750 beds, but other supervisors resisted the plan because of concerns about its financial implications.
County CEO William Fujioka said his staff hopes to resolve the dispute over pediatric beds in the coming weeks (Therolf/Engel, Los Angeles Times, 5/23).
On Tuesday, a federal bankruptcy court judge agreed to the terms of a four-party deal to sell Moreno Valley Community Hospital to Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, which could help the Valley Health System's plan to pay creditors, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
Under the deal, Del Mar-based Select VHS Acquisition will transfer its purchase option for the hospital to Kaiser, which will pay Valley Health $47 million for the hospital and vacant land in the complex. Select obtained the purchase option last year after voters rejected a plan to sell the hospital district's assets to the company.
As part of a revised agreement with Select, the district will pay the firm $10.4 million up front, as well as a balance of $18.3 million with interest (Wesson, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 5/20).
The state Department of Public Health found that eight patients in 2007 were improperly restrained at Saint Agnes Medical Center, including one man who was fatally burned in his bed after attempting to light a cigarette, the Fresno Bee reports.
Investigators concluded that the man caused the fire by striking a match in the presence of oxygen. Lea Brooks, a spokesperson for the public health department, said investigators "did not have sufficient evidence whether or not [being restrained] was a contributing factor to the cause of death."
The state report said the man's restraints "were not medically necessary to treat his condition." The coroner declared the death accidental, and state and local authorities did not cite the hospital for the death.
Hospital officials responded to the report by providing new policies to address the use of patient restraints, including avoiding them whenever possible (Correa, Fresno Bee, 5/16).
On Monday, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital District officials agreed to allow the hospital to ask voters to help finance a bond measure that would pay for a portion of the $600 million rebuild of the hospital to meet state earthquake regulations and expand the facility, the Monterey County Herald reports.
On Aug. 26, voters in the hospital district will vote via a special, all-mail election on whether to sell $392 million in bonds to finance almost 60% of the rebuild project.
District officials called for a special election so that the bond measure would not be confused with other proposals in the November election.
The measure requires a two-thirds majority to pass (Salinas, Monterey County Herald, 5/20).
On May 29, Tri-City Healthcare District trustees are expected to approve an August mail ballot that would include a $589 million bond issue to help expand and renovate Tri-City Medical Center, the Union-Tribune reports.
The first phase of construction, which will help meet state earthquake safety requirements, would include building an expanded emergency department, new urgent care center and an expanded intensive care unit. Construction is expected to last for 2.5 years, according to Frances Riddlehoover of Jensen Partners in Los Angeles, a consultant on the project.
Two $596 million bond measures in 2006 failed to receive the necessary two-thirds voter approval (Sherman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/17).