San Luis Obispo County General Hospital Faces Closure, Consequences for Indigent Care
San Luis Obispo County General Hospital turnaround plan seems "destined to fail," as the hospital was ordered to trim $5.5 million in costs by June 2002 or "face the consequences," the Los Angeles Times reports. Although past attempts to close the hospital were met with opposition from advocates for the poor who said that farm laborers "relied on the care" they received at the facility, "this time," according to David Edge, San Louis Obispo's administrative officer, "closing the hospital is a real possibility." According to the Times, county supervisors wanted to close the hospital in 1999 and expand the hospital's four clinics in Atascadero, Grover Beach, Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo -- effectively cutting the county's annual subsidy from $12 million to $6.5 million. However, the county eventually "yielded to pleas to make one more try to save the hospital." Recent actions by the newly appointed hospital administrator, Larry Hood, including the replacement of emergency room physicians with "lower-salaried," non-board-certified doctors, have resulted in accusations that the county is "creating a two-tier, class-based system of care." While one side of the debate claims that "without a public hospital, the indigent will not be treated well," the other side says that the county has "more than enough hospitals" and that morale at the hospital is suffering. The Times reports that a growing number of local residents believe the "steps being taken to save [the county's] General Hospital are already compromising care" (Johnson, Los Angeles Times, 11/19).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.