Inland Empire Hospitals Voice Opposition to Proposed Surgical Hospital
Opponents of the proposed California Heart and Surgical Hospital in Loma Linda continue to voice their dissent before the issue is scheduled to come before the City Council on Tuesday, the San Bernardino County Sun reports (Wells, San Bernardino County Sun, 5/4).
A group of physicians and investors last year proposed building the surgical hospital, which would specialize in cardiovascular and orthopedic procedures. The hospital would be located on a 66,000-square-foot vacant lot between Loma Linda University Medical Center and Redlands Community Hospital.
The hospital also would include a one-bed emergency department and would employ 36 physicians who specialize in areas such as thoracic treatment and ear, nose and throat conditions.
Mickey Forrest of the Hospital Association of Southern California said that the ED was included in facility plans to prevent it from being classified as a specialty hospital.
The new Medicare law includes an 18-month moratorium on Medicare reimbursements to new specialty hospitals that are wholly or partly owned by physicians. The moratorium, which is set to expire in June, would not apply to the proposed facility because the hospital is not scheduled to open until late 2005 (California Healthline, 4/26/04).
Those opposed to the hospital proposal say they are concerned it will leave other facilities to treat a greater share of low-income and indigent patients. Opponents include Save Our Community Healthcare Access, a coalition of area hospitals and physicians, who last month presented the issue to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.
The board approved a resolution of nonsupport for the proposal and requested that LLUMC withdraw it.
Bill Arsenault, consultant for the proposed hospital, said, "This is a David-versus-Goliath type of thing. Realistically, Loma Linda University Medical Center and adjoining hospitals have banded together against us. And what's the big picture? The population in this area is exploding. Even with us building our hospital, the existing hospitals have to expand." Arsenault said the new hospital would be less than 1% the size of LLUMC and would not "make any measurable dent on their finances or the growth of the community." Arsenault added that the hospital has created a foundation to provide charity care.
Allan Gustafson, a physician who developed the concept of the surgical hospital, said, "We are in this to provide something better than what's out there right now. We're trying to provide collaboration and compassion to our patients."
LLUMC Senior Vice President Michael Jackson said, "This will not be good for the Inland Empire."
Bruce Satzger, president of Community Hospital of San Bernardino, said, "From a pure entrepreneurial perspective, specialty hospitals are fine, but because our health-care delivery system is so fragmented, this further fragments it. They could selectively admit paying customers, and that further dilutes community hospitals" (San Bernardino County Sun, 5/4).