Los Angeles County Supervisors Approve $820M Project To Rebuild County-USC Medical Center
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved an $820 million project to rebuild County-USC Medical Center, which was badly damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the Los Angeles Times reports. The approval clears the way for construction of a 600-bed, 1.5 million-square-foot facility, 145 fewer beds than what the current facility is budgeted to staff and operate. Groundbreaking is set for this spring, with project completion expected in 2007. The new facility will consist of four buildings, including a seven-story outpatient building, an eight-story inpatient building, a five-story diagnostic center and a central plant, the Times reports. The county will fund about $331 million of the project by taking out loans (Briscoe, Los Angeles Times, 12/11). The county also has received more than $470 million in federal and state disaster aid to rebuild the hospital (AP/Fresno Bee, 12/4). However, supervisors are still "disput[ing]" what the project actually will cost. Already, the estimated cost has increased more than $2.5 million over original projections (Los Angeles Times, 12/11). "This could balloon into the billion figures easily," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said (AP/Fresno Bee, 12/4).
The project's approval comes at an "awkward" time, as the county has been lobbying the state and federal government for assistance in covering a shortfall in the county health department (Los Angeles Times, 12/4). Los Angeles' health system faces an estimated $750 million budget deficit by 2005, partly as a result of treating many uninsured patients. County officials are considering whether to close Harbor-UCLA and Olive View-UCLA medical centers, as well as dozens of public health clinics, to balance the budget. The county received a $1.2 billion federal bailout in 1995 and an extension of the funds in 2000, but the bailout funds will expire in 2005. As a partial solution, county voters in November approved a measure to raise property taxes to cover about 40% of the projected shortfall. State and county officials last week submitted a waiver application to the federal government asking permission to use Medicaid funds "more creatively" as a way to cover the shortfall (California Healthline, 12/2). According to the Times, county officials say the expense of the construction project is needed as part of a plan to reorganize the county health care system to emphasize outpatient care. In addition, doctors and patient advocates agree that the "aging hospital complex" needs to be replaced, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 12/4).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.