Grand Jury Report Critical of Management of Alameda County Medical Center
The Alameda County Medical Center Board of Trustees has not taken sufficient action to address financial issues at its facilities, which could "collapse" the county-run hospital system, according to an Alameda County grand jury report released Wednesday, the Alameda Times-Star reports. The grand jury "took the unusual step" of issuing the report two months before presenting its annual assessment of county departments, according to the Times-Star.
ACMC includes Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro, Highland Hospital Oakland, John George Psychiatric Pavilion, and three outpatient clinics in Hayward, Newark and Oakland.
In February 2004, the medical center trustees agreed to an 18-month, $3.2 million contract with Cambio Health Solutions, which expires in August.
The grand jury report praised Cambio for its cost-saving recommendations, which include renegotiating contracts with physicians to increase accountability and making billing processes more efficient to reduce repayment time from insurers.
However, the trustees have not implemented Cambio's "most important recommendation" -- laying off between 120 and 300 employees -- the reports states. Trustees instead established a labor-management committee for employees to participate in cost-saving decisions and increased pay for some workers.
According to the report:
- ACMC has a budget deficit of about $3 million, despite receiving $70 million this fiscal year from Measure A, a voter-approved half-cent sales tax;
- ACMC's costs are expected to increase by at least $10 million in fiscal year 2005-2006;
- Officials have only recently begun to search for permanent management executives despite the expiration of Cambio's contract in August;
- One-quarter of staff are not working because of injuries they sustained while working or long-term disabilities; and
- Low morale persists among staff and leadership.
The grand jury recommended that trustees balance the budget, stop borrowing from the county treasury and reduce operating deficit. It also recommended that the center begin making annual payments of $10 million to the county treasury on the $192 million it owes.
Jeff Stark, grand jury legal adviser, said, "The grand jury believes there is a substantial fiscal crisis that the board of trustees is not taking action to avert."
Board of Trustees President Ted Rose said some information in the report might be "inaccurate or out of date." Rose said the board would discuss the report with staff and the Board of Supervisors and respond to the grand jury "very soon."
Fran Jefferson -- executive director of SEIU Local 616, which represents hospital workers -- said, "Staffing levels are set by the state, not by us. You can't just snap your fingers and save $2 million at three meetings."
Charlie Ridgell of SEIU Local 250, which also represents workers, said, "The portions of the report dealing with labor issues are just plain false. Somebody is lying to the grand jury."
Board of Supervisors President Keith Carson said, "There's been major turnover in terms of administration, and I think that has had a negative impact. To continue to turn that over would contribute to the destabilization of the medical center."
ACMC is expected to release its annual budget later this month (Vesely, Alameda Times-Star, 5/12).