ORANGE COUNTY: Pacifica Hospital Closes Doors Without Warning
Pacifica Hospital "abruptly shut its emergency room at noon" yesterday, announcing the entire hospital would close Monday. The Los Angeles Times reports that "shocked and embittered" hospital employees and patients alike were caught off guard by the news. The hospital has arranged transfers to area hospitals for the 40 current Pacifica patients, but 325 employees will find themselves abruptly without jobs. The 98-bed Orange County hospital has stayed afloat despite significant losses during the six years since developer Robert Zinngrabe purchased the facility as part of his holding company, Delmapacifica. The Los Angeles Times reports that the hospital has remained in the red since its purchase, losing $13 million that officials attribute to a "declining patient census" and reduced Medicare reimbursements. The reimbursement cutbacks were particularly painful, as the "hospital was unusually dependent on [the] Medicare business" that generated 62% of Pacifica's $79 million revenue in 1997. Jon Gilwee, vice president of the Health Care Association of Southern California, explained that "Pacifica was one of the few remaining independently owned hospitals in the county and had to compete against huge hospital networks for contracts with managed care companies."
Pacifica is among "a string of care facilities and homes for the elderly owned by" Zinnegrabe, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July. Delmapacifica spokesperson Jay Vogelsang said Pacifica's closing "and the pending sale of an adjacent assisted living center 'helps resolve the problem.'" However, the 325 displaced Pacifica employees still feel the pain after learning "Tuesday that they will be out of jobs in less than a week." Delmapacifica President Gordon MacKenzie conceded, "This is devastating for employees. The hospital's financial failure is not their fault." Officials said the company will try to find them other employment. The Times reports that Pacifica is the second Orange County hospital to close this year; Friendly Hills Medical Center in La Habra was the other (Warren/Marsh, 11/11).