STANISLAUS COUNTY: Del Puerto Hospital Closure Could Hurt Area
The Stanislaus County hospital district last week voted 4-0 to suspend Del Puerto Hospital's medical license, effectively "shut[ting] down the only emergency room in western Stanislaus County." The Modesto Bee reports that the suspension of the hospital's medical license will take between 60 and 90 days to go into effect. While the act of suspending the license "rather than relinquishing it allows the hospital to reopen at some point," in the meantime Patterson residents in need of emergency services "will have to go to Modesto or Turlock," both 30 to 35 minutes away. "Patients' families are worried about what will happen to their loved ones," said Del Puerto COO Linda Markum. "We're contacting facilities in Turlock, Modesto and Newman to find placements for everyone," she added.
Restrictive Insurer Contracts
The Modesto Beereports that Del Puerto, open since 1950, has faced "mounting bills and few patients to fill its acute-care beds." In the past, patients who wished to go to Del Puerto Hospital were allowed to do so by their health insurance, according to area family physician David Hilburn. But a few years ago, insurance companies began contracting with regional competitors for inpatient care, effectively excluding Del Puerto from their provider networks. In February, Del Puerto filled only five of its 17 acute-care beds. "When Doctors Medical Center took over Del Puerto's operations last November, the smaller hospital got some contracts that allowed admission of patients with upper respiratory infections. But it was too little too late," Dr. Hilburn said. Del Puerto Board President Steve Pedrazzi said, "Hospital expenses were higher than revenues." Del Puerto must close even though it houses "the only nursing facility in Patterson and one of two on the West Side serving long-term patients." The reason, the Bee reports, is that "the law requires the presence of an acute-care facility for skilled-nursing care" (Birch, 3/27).