Los Angeles County Continues Negotiations With California Hospital Medical Center on Trauma Unit
Los Angeles County officials and the California Hospital Medical Center have resumed "delicate talks" about a proposal to open a trauma unit at the facility that would serve 1,000 of the 1,800 annual trauma patients from Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center in the event that King/Drew's trauma unit is closed, the Los Angeles Times reports (Chong, Los Angeles Times, 10/5).
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last month voted 3-1 to begin a legal process that could lead to the closure of the King/Drew trauma unit to divert more resources toward proposals to address problems that could cost the hospital $200 million in annual federal funds (California Healthline, 9/22). County health officials have cited California Hospital, owned by Catholic Healthcare West, as their first choice to cover patients from the King/Drew trauma unit, in part because the facility is located in the southern region of the city.
Negotiations between the county and California Hospital began earlier this year. The county, which had sought to open a trauma unit at California Hospital with capacity to treat 660 trauma patients annually, currently seeks to open a unit with a higher capacity to compensate for the potential closure of the King/Drew trauma center. Previous negotiations had stalled in July, at which time the county had proposed up to $1.6 million annually for a trauma unit at California Hospital.
An agreement to join the county trauma system "requires a deep financial commitment," and the proposal to open a trauma unit at California Hospital comes after the hospital reported a loss of $12.3 million for fiscal year 2002-2003, which included $2 million in uncompensated care, according to the Times.
Under a proposal from the county, California Hospital would have to have a general surgeon on call at all times, have several specialized surgeons within 30 minutes of the facility at all times, hire specially trained nurses and have a helipad available for airlifted patients.
The treatment of trauma patients costs about $18,000 per patient, and the most severe cases cost about $250,000 per patient. However, the county would reimburse California Hospital for 75% of the cost of treatment for each trauma patient, and private health insurers, Medi-Cal and Medicare also would reimburse the facility at higher rates.
Katreena Salgado, a spokesperson for California Hospital, said that hospital officials will announce their decision on the proposal by early December (Los Angeles Times, 10/5).