SACRAMENTO COUNTY: Hospitals Fuller than Expected
Most of the 16 Sacramento-area hospitals experienced crowded conditions throughout January and February -- a trend typical for winter but one that has many hospital executives rethinking plans to minimize hospital services. The Sacramento Business Journal reports that because managed care has not kept people from utilizing hospitals as much as it promised, area hospitals are reversing some strategic planning. Kaiser Permanente last week announced it would keep it Sacramento Medical Center open and Sutter Health announced the same about its Sutter Memorial facility. A 1995 study by APM Inc. for Sutter "concluded that if trends toward managed care and less use of hospitals continued, the region would need far fewer hospital beds." But "things haven't worked out that way," the Business Journal reports. "At Kaiser, like everybody else in this industry, we see patient utilization increasing," said Colleen McKeown, patient care coordinator for the Sacramento Valley region. Coupled with the overestimation of managed care's impact on hospital utilization, experts attribute the rise to a growing and aging population and increased access to care. Mercy spokesperson Cindy Holst said, "Several trends over the last few years have caused us to rethink demand and capacity." But the problem is not unique to the Sacramento region as hospitals statewide are seeing similar trends. Bruce Spurlock of the California Healthcare Association said hospital use is "up at least 10% -- between 10% and 20% in some areas -- and that turns the notion of declining utilization as a way to manage health care costs." He said in addition to the aging population, the rise in hospitalization was due to legislation mandating that women be allowed to stay in the hospital longer after deliveries (Robertson, 3/8 issue).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.