Report Calls for HCA To Delay Closure of San Jose Medical Center
Nashville-based HCA Healthcare should postpone until June closing San Jose Medical Center to "limit the health care difficulties that are likely to follow," according to an outside analysis released Tuesday, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Lynch, San Jose Mercury News, 11/17).
HCA had first said two years ago that it planned to close the facility in 2007 because of declining Medicare and Medi-Cal reimbursements and higher costs from new state seismic retrofit regulations and new state nurse-to-patient ratio rules implemented in January. HCA announced in September that it would close SJMC by Dec. 9.
After the closure, emergency patients will be diverted to Valley Medical Center and Stanford Medical Center, the two remaining trauma centers in Santa Clara County (California Healthline, 9/9).
The report, conducted at the request of the city and county, found that closing the hospital will adversely affect "many aspects of local medical care, from lifesaving emergency surgery to routine doctor visits," with ED patients, trauma patients and seniors living near downtown San Jose "among the groups hardest hit," the Mercury News reports.
SJMC handled more than 31,000 ED cases last year. According to the report, more than 40,000 nonemergency medical visits will need to be handled outside of the downtown area because more physician offices will relocate to other parts of San Jose to be closer to operating hospitals.
The report stated that SJMC's closure will make it necessary for the county to build a new health center downtown and that the area could face a hospital bed shortage in about 10 years without SJMC. The report proposed that HCA help patients travel to other trauma centers and hospitals by paying for more transit and providing additional charity care.
HCA plans to expand Regional Medical Center of San Jose and possibly move SJMC's trauma center to Regional, but county officials, who have final say over such plans, "are not rushing their review," the Mercury News reports.
Roz Dean, a leader of the Save San Jose Medical Center Coalition, said the city currently needs a downtown hospital "and we are going to need one even more in a decade."
Henry Zaretsky, the Sacramento-based analyst who led the study, said, "There will be a huge influx at other hospitals. There are important steps that could help." He added that the "short notice really pulled the rug out from under everyone" and recommended that the county build a new downtown health clinic that would offer primary, specialty and urgent care. "Given what has happened, now is the time to think ahead," he said (San Jose Mercury News, 11/17).
"Forget about the notion of HCA postponing the closure of San Jose Medical Center by six months," a Mercury News editorial states, adding that the "unrealistic suggestion was the only clunker in an otherwise thoughtful study of the impacts of the hospital's closure." According to the editorial, the report is a "short-term call for action and a long-term call for awareness and planning."
Citing the report's finding that San Jose could face a hospital bed shortage in a decade, the editorial concludes, "City and county officials should start now to plan how best to meet this life-and-death challenge" (San Jose Mercury News, 11/18).