FRESNO: Hospital Building Plans Continue Despite Shortfall
"Although a $50 million state funding question still looms, Community Health System officials said they will begin construction on the downtown Regional Medical Center next March," the Fresno Bee reports. While Community Health officials hope to receive $50 million from the state, Gov. Pete Wilson has told them to look to the California Medical Assistance Commission for help. Even without the $50 million, Community Health System officials "say they have enough financial resources to proceed with initial construction for the first phase," a $158.4 million project that would include a $93.1 million Level 1 trauma center and burn unit. Community Health System CEO Michael McGinnis said the company "has the ability to borrow up to $63.5 million to finance the project and another $80 million in equity." However, the Bee notes that amount is "still nearly $15 million short" of the project's total cost.
We Want Our Money
The Bee reports that supporters of the project are "playing up the importance of the combined regional burn and trauma programs to be housed at the Regional Medical Center campus to state officials." State Sens. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) and Jim Costa (D-Fresno) "are pressuring the state for a financial commitment to the project." Maddy is sponsoring legislation requiring the state to supply the $50 million despite Wilson's veto of a similar measure last November. Costa maintains the state set a precedent "by funding other regional trauma and burn centers." Without the state's financial support, Costa said the area "has a serious problem" because the California Medical Assistance Commission has said it could allocate only $5 million annually for the project. The Bee reports that while there has "[b]een talk that part of a $22.6 million Fresno County mental health fund surplus could be used," Community Health System officials said the mental health funds have "no financial impact on the project." County Administrative Officer Will Randolph said, "'There has been no decision' on how to use that money." The completed project "is expected to become the heart of the Valley's medical community, uniting staff and resources from University Medical Center, Fresno Community Hospital and the University of California-San Francisco's medical education program in Fresno," the Bee reports (Correa, 3/15).