KAISER PERMANENTE: Shifting Of FEMA Funds Blocked By U.S. House
Kaiser Permanente's plan to use "federal earthquake disaster funds earmarked for the Kaiser hospital in Panorama City" at other Kaiser facilities could be stalled, as the U.S. House passed an amendment last night preventing a shift in such funds, the Los Angeles Times reports. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Mission Hills) said he proposed the amendment to the $93 billion appropriations bill because "a shift in FEMA funds by Kaiser could cause its Panorama City hospital to close." He said, "This would force many low-income, minority and transit-dependent individuals to look elsewhere for vital medical services." Kaiser spokesperson Katherine Saux indicated that the company planned to consolidate "$68 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to the [Panorama City] hospital and $160 million in similar grants to two Kaiser facilities in Los Angeles." Saux noted that the consolidation would allow Kaiser more "direction and flexibility" to organize repairs and to allocate the funds among all of its area facilities.
Patient Care A Priority
If the amendment passes the U.S. Senate, Kaiser would re-evaluate the allocation of FEMA funds. Saux said, "We haven't had an opportunity to look at what our fall-back position would be if this (amendment) goes all the way through." However, Saux noted that the adjustment would not interrupt service to Panorama City patients. "Even if the Panorama City hospital closed to consolidate funds ... Kaiser members in the northeast Valley would form a partnership with another area hospital to provide care," she said (Schultz, 7/30).