CONTRA COSTA COUNTY: Hospital Boards Remain, but Hospitals Gone
Contra Costa County's three hospital districts receive $3.5 million in tax money annually despite the fact that not one of the districts actually runs a hospital. The seemingly bizarre situation is not unusual: the Contra Costa Times reports that 20 of the state's 73 hospital districts -- many created decades ago to provide care in rural areas that have long since been suburbanized -- no longer run hospitals. As districts have sold, closed or merged their facilities, they face "an obvious question: Why should they exist and continue to collect millions of dollars in taxes?" Los Medanos Health District board member Dan De Miglio, who has been trying to dissolve his board, said, "If it serves no purpose, why should it exist with no mission, no value statement, no work plan?" Susan Prather of the West County Coalition to Save Health Care echoed, "I don't understand how hospital districts with no hospitals can continue to exist, and that should be something everybody asks. It's crazy, irresponsible."
But the Contra Costa Times reports that hospital district officials say that paying off bonds and debts can continue long after a hospital is gone, and that "[t]hey are the only publicly elected health planners in the state, and can reach out to people left behind by the health care system." In addition, they point out that they can regulate private hospitals. Districts without hospitals have used their funds for legal obligations such as workers compensation claims, teen health programs and administrative costs (Hill, 3/5).