Sacramento City Council Considers ‘Community Benefit’ Guidelines for Hospitals
The Sacramento City Council on Thursday is expected to vote on a plan that would expand its authority over hospital construction projects to allow it to consider nine "community benefit principles," including the "way large medical facilities spend money and care for patients," the Sacramento Bee reports.
The plan -- drafted by a coalition of religious leaders, social justice activists and representatives from the Service Employees International Union and the Sacramento Central Labor Council -- would go "beyond a typical examination of whether a proposed medical facility poses environmental, traffic or other impacts," the Bee reports.
One principle states that hospitals should not use patient care funds to fight union organizing. Other principles call for hospitals to continue fair pricing practices, meet quality care of care standards, offer sufficient care for residents of all neighborhoods and provide charity care.
In addition, the plan calls for hospitals to use reasonable collection practices for patients with unpaid bills and states that community meetings should be held to talk about uses for abandoned hospital sites. An oversight committee would determine adherence to the principles, the Bee reports.
"These (hospitals) are nonprofits that pay the city no property tax. There is a notion that they should be held to a certain standard to provide benefits to the entire community," City Council member Steve Cohn said.
"The council should stay out of the health care business. This resolution has the potential to make certain any future hospital developments will not be done in the city of Sacramento. They'll take them to other jurisdictions," Matt Mahood, president of the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, said (Hardy, Sacramento Bee, 10/6).
A Sacramento Bee editorial calls the Sacramento City Council the "new and highly dubious guardian of quality hospital care" and states that the hospital guideline plan is "one of its most pea-brained ideas ever."
The editorial states, "This is uncharted territory for the council," adding that, "if the council adopts these principles, it will be able to dig into all of the affairs of any Sacramento hospital that wants to upgrade its facilities -- and apply the principles to things that are near and dear to labor unions' hearts" (Sacramento Bee, 10/6).