Some Santa Cruz, Santa Clara County Officials Oppose Proposal To Restrict Trauma Services
Santa Cruz County officials said they oppose a proposal that would place restrictions on hospital trauma centers in Santa Clara County for people who live outside the county, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gathright, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/18).
Last week, Santa Clara County health officials considered recommending the termination of a policy that allows trauma patients from nearby counties to be transported directly to trauma centers in Santa Clara County for treatment. The decision follows Nashville-based HCA Healthcare's announcement two weeks ago that San Jose Medical Center will close by Dec. 1.
Over the past 10 years, informal agreements with Santa Clara County have allowed neighboring counties to directly transport annually about 300 patients with serious injuries to SJMC, Stanford University Hospital or county-run Valley Medical Center, which have 24-hour surgery centers, medical specialists and emergency equipment. The policy change would require trauma patients in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties, which do not have trauma centers, to undergo initial treatment at local community hospitals while doctors try to gain admittance for patients at trauma centers in Santa Clara County (California Healthline, 9/17).
Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chair Mardi Wormhoudt said the proposal would endanger the lives of coastal residents, as well as Santa Clara County residents who are injured outside of the county.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss, chair of the board's health and hospital committee, said, "Health care ought not to be limited by the parameters of a county." She added, "This is a very humane board. I think it will be difficult for us from a humane standpoint to turn down anyone who does not happen to live in the county" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/18).
HCA has proposed moving SJMC's trauma center to Regional Medical Center of San Jose, which HCA also owns, but county health officials say they could delay or block the proposal to ensure that the relocated center would meet trauma center regulations (California Healthline, 9/17). Wormhoudt supports HCA's plan to move the trauma center and has "urg[ed] her South Bay counterparts to expedite HCA's application," according to the Chronicle.
Pete McHugh, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, said HCA is trying to "cherry pick" SJMC's trauma services by relocating the profitable trauma center at another HCA hospital while closing SJMC, which loses money on other health services.
Robert Sillen, executive director of the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital Systems, has asked HCA keep SJMC open until March so Regional Medical Center has time to meet strict guidelines and become certified as a trauma center. "You can't just turn a community hospital or any hospital into a trauma center overnight," he said.
SJMC spokesperson Leslie Kelsay said closing the hospital "was a decision that we put off as long as we could" (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/18).
The San Jose Mercury News on Sunday examined other possible effects of the SJMC closure, including the possible closure of a hospital-sponsored clinic and its affiliated family practice physician residency program. HCA will continue to fund the clinic through June to allow the clinic time to petition other hospitals for sponsorship, Kelsay said, adding that HCA's two other hospitals in San Jose will not sponsor the clinic. Medical residents affiliated with the clinic also will have to relocate, the Mercury News reports (Torrejon, San Jose Mercury News, 9/19).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.