EAST COUNTY: Scripps Health to Close El Cajon Hospital
Citing a "low need for its beds and a net loss of $10 million in the last six years," the Scripps Health Board of Trustees last week unanimously voted to close its El Cajon Hospital, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The Scripps facility is the region's third acute-care hospital to close or be converted in recent years. Calling the decision a "difficult but necessary step," the trustees pointed to a $7 million loss last year and explained that a similar loss was expected this year, should the hospital have remained in operation. Only 7% of East County residents received care at the 162-bed hospital, Scripps Chief Medical Officer Dr. A. Brent Eastman said. Scripps officials noted that the hospital's problems were compounded by low HMO and federal reimbursements and the nationwide shortage of nurses. Although the closure was decided last week, Scripps officials informed employees of the decision on Tuesday. Nearly 75% of the hospital's employees will be offered positions at other Scripps facilities. Many physicians and area residents expressed disappointment with the closure, and felt particular concern for low-income and patients who use the facility's emergency room. Grossmont Hospital, which already operates one of the county's busiest emergency rooms, is expected to assume a majority of the El Cajon patient load. However, Grossmont officials expressed concern that the closure will leave area residents with "fewer options and longer distances to drive" for care. Dr. Robert Ross, director of the county Health and Human Services Agency, said he was disappointed, but not surprised with the decision. "With hospital occupancy rates having plummeted during the decade of the 90s, I'm not surprised that the shoe has finally dropped somewhere." Ross said he is legally obligated to hold a hearing on the closure, which will occur soon. The El Cajon hospital is expected to shut its doors in three months (Clark/Duerksen, 3/8).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.