SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY: Health System’s Worth Provides Leverage In Quest For Partner
San Joaquin County "negotiators are in the driver's seat for talks with prospective partners" for its health care system, according to a financial consultant who estimates that the county's system -- buildings, equipment, etc. -- is worth $100 million. The Modesto Bee reports that in contrast to "most government-run health networks, which in general are ailing financially" and in need of repair, the high appraisal for San Joaquin provides leverage for ongoing negotiations in which the county is seeking a private partner. County supervisors voted 3-2 last January to examine a joint-venture for the health system, and "[s]ince then, the county has solicited bids and conducted interviews." Sutter Health indicated an interest and submitted a proposal, as did the University of California-Davis jointly with Catholic HealthCare West.
Not Everyone's Happy
The county board is expected to review a final joint-venture recommendation early next year, but in the meantime, Supervisors Dario Marenco and Steve Gutierrez are publicly criticizing the effort. Marenco said, "If these guys (a private partner) screw up, we're the one who gets the blame." They contended that allowing a private business a voice in county operations could disrupt service to the poor and frustrate employees. However, county officials warn of a rocky road ahead if a partner isn't found, saying "the increasingly tough health care market and a decline in revenue could squeeze the county. If things go bad ... county taxpayers would be stuck paying higher subsidies to keep the county health system afloat" (Miller, 11/11).