California Hospital News Roundup for the Week of May 30, 2008
San Bernardino County's decision to reduce Colorado River Medical Center to an urgent care facility has sparked some Needles residents to consider seceding from California and becoming part of Nevada or Arizona, or to create its own independent county, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Residents are angry that the conversion of the 25-bed medical center, which has treated patients for 56 years, will force them to seek care elsewhere.
Needles has taken over the hospital, and employees are working without benefits or overtime as a way to cut costs (Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 5/26).
A report from the San Luis Obispo County grand jury found that the decision to close General Hospital has saved the county about $3.5 million annually and improved care for low-income patients, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports.
In 2003, the county Board of Supervisors voted to close the hospital and county-run primary care clinics and contract with privately-owned clinics.
Three years after the hospital closed, annual county spending for the County Medical Services Program and Medical Assistance Program, which provide care for low-income patients, had decreased by about $6 million (Curran, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 5/25).
On Tuesday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a federal class-action lawsuit against John Muir Health alleging that the hospital operator denied at least seven nurses employment after a physician misdiagnosed them with severe allergies to latex, the Contra Costa Times reports.
EEOC officials said John Muir based its decision on the diagnosis of a physician who was not an allergist and who failed to confirm results from a blood test that is known to produce false-positive results.
Marcia Mitchell, lead attorney for EEOC, said specialists later determined that some of the nurses did not have latex allergies and others had milder forms (Simerman, Contra Costa Times, 5/27).
NorthBay Medical Center will invest nearly $10 million to create an open-heart surgery program, the first program of that kind in Solano County, the East Bay Business Times reports.
The open-heart surgery program is expected to serve 100 patients in its first year, and increase to between 200 and 300 patients by the third and fourth years, according to NorthBay CEO Gary Passama.
The hospital also plans to begin treating patients with blocked coronary arteries in its new cardiac catheterization lab, which was expanded and rebuilt last year (Hogarth, East Bay Business Times, 5/26).
Nurses at Placentia-Linda Hospital filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board to join the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, the Dallas Business Journal reports. Placentia-Linda is owned by Tenet Healthcare.
The union said a "strong majority" of the hospital's nurses have signed authorization cards for a union election, although the date has not been set (Dallas Business Journal, 5/23).
The Sutter Gould Medical Foundation is looking to build a new medical office building southwest of Lodi, the Stockton Record reports. The project is intended to consolidate Sutter's medical offices in Lodi.
Craig Baize, a spokesperson for the not-for-profit health provider Sutter Health, said the building could resemble the three-story, 70,000-square-foot Stockton Medical Plaza, which contains 30 physicians (Thigpen, Stockton Record, 5/24).
After two days of voting, a majority of registered nurses at St. Agnes Medical Center rejected a proposal to be represented by the California Nurses Association, the Fresno Bee reports.
CNA officials expressed disappointment and said they would challenge the election.
The National Labor Relations Board oversaw the election and will not certify the election results for at least a week, during which union or hospital officials can file objections to the election (Correa, Fresno Bee, 5/24).
Meanwhile, St. Agnes officials suspended cardiac surgeries while investigating an increased number of postoperative leg-wound infections (St. John, Fresno Bee, 5/27).
Kaiser Permanente Medical Center -- which contracts to send Kaiser members to St. Agnes for some procedures -- alerted St. Agnes officials that four Kaiser members had "superficial leg infections" in the first quarter of this year, according to Jaime Huss, a St. Agnes spokesperson.
The latest investigation comes after an inquiry earlier this year when at least 12 cardiac surgery patients at St. Agnes had life-threatening infections (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 5/24).
San Joaquin General Hospital's projected deficit for fiscal year 2008-2009 is $9.5 million less than its expected $21.4 million deficit for the current fiscal year, according to a report by the Camden Group, a medical consulting company, the Stockton Record reports.
The report did not take into account the costs of upgrading facilities or starting work to develop a trauma center or expand clinical care.
In addition, the report does not include all potential sources of savings for the hospital in the coming year, according to lead consultant David Culberson (Johnson, Stockton Record, 5/28).