County Safety Net Lacks Coordination, Report Finds
San Diego County spends less on providing health care services to uninsured residents than any other county in the state, and problems with the county's safety net system likely will increase as the uninsured population grows, according to a county-commissioned draft report released Monday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.
The study was commissioned in 2005 after the University of California-San Diego announced plans to move nearly 400 acute-care beds from its Hillcrest campus to Thornton Hospital in La Jolla. The Hillcrest facility treats a large number of working, low-income patients, and surrounding hospitals are concerned about the financial impact of the move.
According to the report, the county lacks a system to coordinate care for low-income, uninsured individuals and the lack of a lead agency has created "a fragile patchwork" of care.
The draft report found 24 significant problems with the county's safety net system, including:
- Sharp Chula Vista Hospital, Scripps Chula Vista Hospital and Alvarado Hospital Medical Center -- which already treat many uninsured and low-income patients and likely would absorb additional patients from UCSD -- are at risk of financial collapse;
- Few physician specialists in the county will treat uninsured and low-income patients;
- The county will need 959 more hospital beds by 2025, but plans to add 861 beds by then will not keep pace with demand in the southern and central part of the county where many uninsured residents and Medi-Cal beneficiaries live;
- The county has not pursued millions of dollars in health care funds, including $8 million available from the Children's Health Initiative; and
- County Medical Services does not pay for prevention programs and has a lengthy and difficult qualification process for county programs.