Hospitals Look to Expand Profits in Alameda, Contra Costa Counties
Several new health care projects on the "eastern fringes" of Alameda and Contra Costa counties are under construction or in the planning stages, as hospitals and health systems look to expand to more profitable areas, the Contra Costa Times reports. The projects include a "cluster of new medical offices" in Brentwood by the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Health System that "could become a full-fledged hospital within a decade" and a new 54,000-square-foot outpatient medical center by Kaiser Permanente in southeast Antioch. Discussing the construction boom in these areas, California Healthcare Association spokesperson Jan Emerson said, "These are fairly well-to-do suburban communities where the majority of people have health insurance. Even in these tough times, hospitals can still do fairly well where people are insured." And Contra Costa County Supervisor Donna Gerber, whose district will "soon include" Brentwood, said, "The reason everybody's all of a sudden interested in Brentwood is that's where the younger families are moving. You can go out there and provide health care that is less expensive to provide and make more profits."
While the expansion into these areas will likely offer some residents greater access to health care providers, advocates are concerned that the trend toward more profitable areas might come at the expense of communities "deemed less attractive" to health systems. In addition, the Times reports that the expansion projects are raising questions about staffing. The state currently is facing a nursing shortage that is "particularly bad in the Bay area," and east Contra Costa County has a "chronic" shortage of primary care physicians and specialists. According to Dr. David Carlisle, director of the Office of Statewide Health Planning, Antioch and Pittsburg are on the federal physician shortage area list (Ashley, Contra Costa Times, 7/15).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.