West Contra Costa Healthcare District To Take Over Operations at Doctors San Pablo, Try to Reverse Losses
The West Contra Costa Healthcare District on Sunday will take over operation of Doctors Medical Center San Pablo from Tenet Healthcare and try to reverse the hospital's $10.5 million in losses so far this year, the Contra Costa Times reports (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 7/29).
In June, voters in West Contra Costa County voted to approve a property tax measure that will raise an estimated $6.1 million per year for the health care district. Without the funding, officials said the hospital would have been forced to close. The 200-bed facility serves patients in El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond and San Pablo, and operates West Contra Costa County's only full-service emergency department (California Healthline, 6/9).
According to Tenet spokesperson Michel Burleson, the hospital lost $1.06 million in March, $1.6 million in April, $2.4 million in May and more than $2 million in June. Burleson attributed the losses to costs associated with the hospital's transition from private to public entity, a lower-than-normal patient count and new state-mandated nurse-staffing levels.
The health care district hopes to reverse the losses at the hospital and break even by early 2005 and possibly turn a profit by the end of next year. District officials plan to cut expenses by improving efficiency in admittance and discharge procedures, shifting nurse assignments to maximize time spent with patients, cutting overtime hours and ending contracts with temporary employees. According to the district's budget plan, officials hope to cut costs for registry workers such as traveling nurses from $7 million in 2004 to $2 million in 2005. "We know the hospital is not operating efficiently," Susan Cosgrove, a financial consultant for the district, said, adding, "If you look at the amount of staffing at that hospital and compare it to industry benchmarks, it's high, but we don't know why."
Cosgrove said that if initial cost-cutting efforts and patient care improvements are insufficient to turn around the hospital's finances, the district will consider layingoff some of the hospital's 1,050 full- and part-time staff. The budget calls for labor costs to decrease 15% from $7.6 million this year to $6.5 million in 2005. "The goal is to find reductions in costs other than layoffs," Jim Beaver, executive director of the district, said. John Borsos, vice president of SEIU Local 250, which represents nurse aides and other workers at the hospital, criticized officials for considering layoffs, saying, "There's not been a case presented to us that describes a need for layoffs. ... We don't think you can cut your way out" of the hospital's problems (Contra Costa Times, 7/29).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.