San Luis Obispo County Supervisors Vote to Hold Hearings on Closing Public Hospital
San Luis Obispo County has started proceedings to close its county hospital, which could limit access to care for the county's working poor, the Los Angeles Times reports. Last week, the county Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 to hold hearings on the 40-bed hospital's closure, a process that could take up to a year to complete. In 1999, the county considered closing the facility, but the Board of Supervisors instead adopted a turnaround plan designed to reduce the facility's losses to $6.5 million annually. However, the cost-cutting efforts -- including physician layoffs -- did not stave off losses, which grew to more than $9 million. County Supervisor Shirley Bianchi, who cast the only vote against the closure hearings, expressed concern that closing the public hospital would create problems for the area's uninsured residents. She said, "It's difficult for me to believe a for-profit hospital will want to deal with the uninsured. I do not believe they will be treated with the same amount of care." Currently, the county has contracts with four private hospitals to care for the poorest patients. However, the Times reports that the problem is providing care for the working poor, those who "make too much to qualify for indigent care" but cannot afford private health insurance. If the public hospital closes, the county would have to restructure its current contracts with the private hospitals to provide care for the working poor. Bianchi said that she is still looking for ways to keep the hospital open (Johnson, Los Angeles Times, 2/13).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.