HIGHLAND HOSPITAL: County Okays Plan To Upgrade
"Alameda County supervisors Tuesday authorized selling up to $130 million in bonds to finance expansion and other improvements to Highland Hospital," including a "new $70 million, five-story critical care and clinics building and a 390-space parking garage." The Contra Costa Times reports that supervisors are moving forward with the project "because interest rates are low and the economy is strong," and expressed "anger" at health-care advocates and county labor union representatives who contend "that the board isn't committed to keeping Highland open for the uninsured poor." Supervisor Mary King blamed criticism on "outside political motivations" and said "it's time 'to hear the facts rather than noise.'" King added, "We are moving forward. This is a long-distance run; it's not a sprint." Supervisor Wilma Chan said, "To cast doubt on the county's commitment could kill the project. We really have to display a unified approach." Joe Keffer of the Vote Health Coalition, however, "defended the criticism of supervisors, saying the board in the past has been slow to move on the expansion."
Out With The Old
The Times reports that the new building "will replace Highland's overcrowded and aging emergency, trauma and outpatient surgery facilities, as well as primary-care and specialty clinics," leaving the existing hospital "almost exclusively for acute-care, impatient beds." The funding includes monies for a seismic upgrade of the old facility. The state "is expected to pick up $53 million of the cost for the new building, with the county issuing 30-year bonds to cover the rest." The annual debt, expected to reach at least $5.1 million including the seismic upgrades, will "be split evenly between the medical center and the county general fund," unless the state comes up with extra support funds (Brewer, 4/29).