CONTRA COSTA: Supervisor Vies for County Control of ERs
The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors is gearing up for tomorrow's discussion of a state bill to prohibit urban hospitals from closing or trimming back emergency rooms without county approval. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Assemblywoman Dion Louise Aroner (D-Oakland) introduced the legislation Feb. 12 "at the behest of Contra Costa Supervisor Donna Gerber." While hospitals are currently allowed to shutter their emergency rooms or cut back to "standby levels" with approval from the state Department of Health Services, Gerber aims to give counties the authority over such decisions. Asserting that the standby designation was intended for rural emergency rooms facing a shortage of doctors, Gerber said, "[T]here is still nothing to prevent any of our hospitals from deciding they don't want to run an emergency room." Under the legislation, each county would outline "criteria it will use to evaluate the effects of a hospital's decision" regarding its emergency room. Noting that "Contra Costa appears to be the tip of the iceberg," Aroner predicts that the issue will be tackled statewide. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that emergency treatment in Contra Costa has been closely watched after Kaiser Permanente closed hospitals in Richmond and Martinez last year, only to backtrack and reopen the Richmond hospital after "intense public and political pressure." Kaiser spokesperson Lila Petersen said the HMO "has not yet taken a position on the new legislation" (Schevitz, 2/22).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.