CONTRA COSTA: Hospitals Consider Merging Services
Facing mounting financial losses, Concord's Mt. Diablo Medical Center is considering consolidation of some medical services at Walnut Creek's John Muir Medical Center, the hospital it merged with in 1997 to boost its economic performance, the Contra Costa Times reports. A former community hospital, Mt. Diablo lost $4.6 million in the first four months of this year, more than in all of 1999, while John Muir is "operating in the black," according to Thomas Harlan, Mt. Diablo's president and chief administrative officer. Harlan blames declining federal Medicare reimbursement rates, along with inadequate payments from HMOs that contract with the hospital for Mt. Diablo's financial troubles. Mt. Diablo also serves a large share of uninsured and Medi-Cal patients. No decisions have been made on how to counteract the problem, but possibilities on the table include consolidation of in-patient pediatric services at John Muir and centralizing lab services between the two hospitals, Harlan said. "Our pediatric volume here is very small," he said, adding, "We're looking at everything." Since the merger, many administrative areas are being centralized, such as finance, payroll, purchasing and strategic planning. Also, some medical departments now have a single director for both hospitals, according to Ron Leone, chair of the board of trustees for the John Muir-Mt. Diablo health system. Harlan noted that no big changes are likely this year at either hospital and also said that most changes, when they occur, will probably be "transparent" to hospital patients and their families (McMillan, 6/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.