KAISER PERMANENTE: Roseville Hospital Opens, Richmond Debated
Kaiser Permanente's Roseville Hospital will open its doors next week to accommodate "surging membership" in the area. The rapid increase in membership last year overwhelmed Kaiser facilities, forcing many patients to "out-of-network" for care. The additional costs associated with that care fueled the HMO's $270 million loss last year, but opening Roseville is part of a move Kaiser officials will help the HMO "stage a financial turnaround." Kaiser officials typically make all staffing decisions when opening a new hospital, but in a landmark move, union and Kaiser officials collaborated on staffing levels and other "guiding principals." Sal Rosselli, president of SEIU Local 250 Health Care Workers Union, hailed the hospital's "unusual partnership" with its unionized workers. Although the 116-bed facility was completed in 1995, it has remained closed. Last year's 25% increase in membership brought the total number of members in Kaiser's Placer County region to 150,000, a sufficiently large enough group to make opening the hospital profitable (Young, Sacramento Bee, 10/1).
Richmond Hospital's Uncertain Future
Despite widespread speculation that Kaiser would announce the closure of its underutilized Richmond facility at Tuesday's West County City Council Meeting, Kaiser Vice President Richard Cordova "strongly denied" the rumors. In a surprising move that "drew cheers from the capacity crowd," Cordova announced instead that the HMO is considering four separate options, one of which would "expand the facility into a full-service hospital." The other three options are: transferring West County emergency patients to Kaiser's Oakland facility; reducing Richmond to a "strictly outpatient facility" and contracting with Doctors Medical Center of San Pablo to provide emergency services; or keeping Richmond's ER open and adding ICU beds. Kaiser physicians and nurses, however, remained skeptical. Dr. David Levinson said, "Mr. Cordova's statements are comforting but not convincing to me." The problem underlying the debate is that West Contra Costa's 67,000 Kaiser members are far fewer than the 200,000 typically required for a Kaiser hospital to remain financially viable. But community members are concerned that if the Richmond facility closed, Contra Costa patients in need of emergency care may not have the money or transportation to reach a distant emergency room (Brown, Contra Costa Times, 10/1).