SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY: Board Approves Deal For Health Care Partner
The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors "Tuesday voted 3-2 to join forces with a private health care provider" to run the county's health care system, the Stockton Record reports. Officials have not yet named their "potential partners," but said "at least eight agencies have shown an interest in the county's $164 million health care system." The county's action follows "a $267,000 report by the William M. Mercer consulting group on how to survive in the competitive health-care marketplace." Entering into a joint venture system was one of three alternatives presented in the report. Other options advised were either "to stay afloat as an independent" system or "to pay some other provider to run various operations." The Record reports that the "county has been searching for ways to attract paying customers to San Joaquin General Hospital, hold onto government-subsidized MediCal patients and grapple with the $105 million debt left after building a new facility."
According to Dr. Robert Lawrence, San Joaquin General Hospital laboratory chief, the new arrangement will be beneficial for the hospital's image. "The county hospital is the object of bigotry and prejudice. The service is parallel (with other hospitals) and always has been ... but something there is wrong because no one seems to believe that. ... We could get a lot of credibility from a partner," he said. A joint effort will enable the county to continue its services for residents who cannot afford health insurance while improving its programs and finances, said board Chair George Barber. However, "the two opposing votes in the decision," Supervisors Dario Marenco and Steve Gutierrez, voiced concern that "giving up the county's health care autonomy will rattle the integrity of health care jobs as well as services to the poor." "What concerns me is you have a private venture and a public responsibility," said Gutierrez, adding, "they don't blend smoothly." The Record notes that as part of the steering committee's motion, it will spend 30 days establishing the terms of the new partnership (Adamek, 1/28).