High Desert Hospital Not Meeting Pilot Project’s Financial Goals, Report Finds
Lancaster-based High Desert Hospital has been unable to meet its financial goals halfway through a six-month revenue-generating pilot project designed to prevent the facility from being converted into an outpatient clinic, according to a report issued last week by Thomas Garthwaite, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the Los Angeles Times reports (Fausset, Los Angeles Times, 12/11). In August, the county announced plans to convert the hospital into an outpatient clinic in May 2003 as part of an effort to reduce a $710 million budget deficit in the county health system. At that time, county supervisors approved the pilot project to allow High Desert officials to attempt to generate additional revenue by offering unused beds to private hospitals, medical groups and the Department of Corrections (California Healthline, 8/21). Hospital officials hoped the contracts with private medical groups would bring in $4 million annually, or $333,000 a month. According to the report, the hospital only made about $100,000 in September and again in October; statistics for November were not available. The program also is attempting to attract $5.6 million in annual revenue by contracting with the Department of Corrections to provide health care for inmates from the local prison. However, the Corrections Department's contract offer was "less than the amount required to offset the cost of operating the beds," and department officials wanted "all but the most serious medical problems" to be treated within the prison, the Times reports. Despite some of the preliminary findings, Norm Hickling, a field deputy for county Supervisor Michael Antonovich, said the report "held out hope" that the hospital could achieve its financial goals before the end of the pilot project in February. He said, "It's going slower than we hoped, but this actually shows good signs of progress. ... It's the private sector understanding the needs of the county, and the county understanding the needs of the private sector." High Desert Hospital officials did not comment on the report (Los Angeles Times, 12/11).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.