EL CAJON: Scripps Hospital Closing Draws Doctors’ Ire
After Scripps East County officials announced the El Cajon hospital's closing, some physicians are wondering "whether Scripps could have done more to keep the 162-bed facility open," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Some doctors have charged that "Scripps had turned its back on the hospital and not given it the support it needed to survive." Scripps has cited the 30% occupancy rate as one reason for the closure, but Dr. John James, an El Cajon family practitioner, said that the hospital "did virtually nothing to stem the hemorrhaging," adding, "There's been no marketing of the hospital in the past year. Doctors have had input in what they feel were solutions, but they were ignored." Dr. Donald Adema, an Alpine family physician, said that once Scripps focused its energy on launching Project Scripps, a Scripps-branded managed care system, the El Cajon hospital "fell off the radar."
Reading Between the Lines
In perhaps the harshest assessment, Dr. Dennis Wilcox argued that Scripps closed "in part as retribution against doctors who were refusing to become part of Project Scripps and the medical group Scripps has been organizing." He said, "I think that people who can read between the lines can come up with that impression. Their reason for closing the hospital just doesn't compute with me." But Chris Van Gorder, chief of health care operations for Scripps, said Wilcox's assumptions are not true, and that Scripps decided to close the hospital because expenses were exceeding income. He said, "The board felt that the assets had to be used to help the most people." Other physicians agreed with van Gorder, pointing out that the hospital's patient base "was heavily weighted with people with no insurance" and the hospital "received little or nor reimbursement for care given." Dr. Richard Stennes, former director of the hospital's emergency department, added that because up to 90% of admissions came from the emergency department, the hospital was losing money because of the dearth of elective procedures. He said, "ER admissions have no money and are pure cost to the hospital. From a pure business perspective, it's the only decision they could make." The Scripps facility will close June 5 (Fong, 3/11).