State Unlikely To Intervene in Tenet Hospital Sales, Attorney General Says
State officials are unlikely to intervene in the sale of Tenet Healthcare hospitals in Southern California, and the Legislature is not expected to enact laws limiting ownership of area hospitals, Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) said at a Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Commission hearing on Thursday, the Pasadena Star-News reports. When the decision to sell the facilities was announced in late January, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors scheduled the hearing, which supervisors, physicians, fire chiefs and health care advocates from Los Angeles and Orange counties attended (Rester, Pasadena Star-News, 3/4). Nineteen hospitals are up for sale; all but one is located in Los Angeles or Orange counties (California Healthline, 2/5). The boards of supervisors for the counties have sent a joint letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) requesting that he relax nurse-patient ratio regulations implemented in January and allocate funds to help hospitals comply with state seismic retrofitting requirements. Both pieces of legislation factored into Tenet's decision to sell the hospitals, according to officials. The medical services commission this month also is expected to unveil to the Los Angeles County board recommendations for further action. In addition, Assembly member Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) plans to introduce legislation that would require state oversight for sales of for-profit hospitals similar to the oversight required in sales of not-for-profit hospitals.
Dr. Stephen Newman, CEO of Tenet California, said that more than 300 inquiries have been made about the hospitals, and more than 90 of the potential buyers have said they would keep hospitals and employees "as they are," the Star-News reports (Pasadena Star-News, 3/4). He also has said that buyers would be required to pledge to operate the hospitals as acute care centers as a condition of sale; retain a majority of current staff; and honor contracts with the Service Employees International Union and the California Nurses Association. Tenet officials said that if any facilities do not sell by the December 2004 deadline, the company would work with local not-for-profit organizations to issue bonds and keep those hospitals operational (California Healthline, 2/5). If any of the hospitals are closed, nearby medical facilities and emergency departments would have to absorb more patients, which would increase waiting room times in emergency rooms and increase travel time for paramedics, health officials said during the hearing (Pasadena Star-News, 3/4).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.