SAN FRANCISCO: Officials Seek Relief for Overwhelmed SF General
Scrambling to remedy a $24 million deficit and overcrowded emergency room at San Francisco General Hospital, city health officials are making plans to limit ambulance admissions and require private hospitals to care for more low-income patients. Contending that conditions at SF General are no longer safe, the city Health Commission today is expected to vote on a recommendation that would allow private hospitals to divert ambulances to the county hospital only for gunshot wounds, burn victims and car accidents; all other cases would go to the nearest hospital. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that if passed, the proposal would be forwarded to the county Board of Supervisors for final approval. Hospital officials hope to a cut admissions by 15% to balance the books that say are bleeding red ink because of "an increased number of penniless patients and inadequate compensation" from Medi-Cal.
Suck It In
In a related move, the commission may also close the county health department's satellite pharmacy, which fills prescriptions for the SF General's low-income patients. These patients would be diverted to the hospital pharmacy, which will stretch already- long waiting times even further. Without these belt-tightening measures, according to officials, the county health department will have to tap tax revenues to cover the budget shortfall. A Catholic Healthcare West spokesperson said the proposal is a "precipitous act," saying, "As private hospitals, we cannot deficit-spend. We have to balance our books on a monthly basis. We don't have the ability to dip into tax revenues." Nathan Nayman of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California said he was concerned because "when any hospital in town does anything to alter the services it provides, it has a ripple effect on the other hospitals in the community" (Russell, 3/2).