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California Public Hospitals See Major Influx of Patients as Recession, Job Losses Continue

As more people lose their jobs and health coverage, they turn to public hospitals for care in California. In a California Healthline Special Report by Mina Kim, hospital officials and patient advocates discussed the increase in traffic public hospitals are seeing during the recession.

The Special Report includes comments from:

William Jensen, chief of medicine at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center; Melissa Stafford Jones, president and CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems; Kim Roberts, CEO of Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System; and Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access.

According to a recent survey by the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, the number of patients treated at member hospitals had increased by 4% — or about 100,000 patients — from October 2007 to October 2008.

That said, CAPH officials said the number could very well be higher now.

“The unemployment rate itself has grown tremendously since the time of the survey,” said Stafford Jones. “All signs seem to be that job loss is going to be continuing and so I think the impact on the public hospital is going to be more severe as more and more patients are turning to them,” Stafford Jones said (Kim, California Healthline, 2/26).