Hospital Budget Cuts Could Affect Your Care

5/2/2008 Tulare County, CA Hospital officials are worried about providing for their neediest patients.

Hospital officials at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia are looking forward to completing the first new building that is part of their expansion to serve the Central Valley's growing population. But a proposed 10% medical cut in next year's budget could make it difficult for Kaweah Delta and other hospitals to finish what they've started.

Kaweah Delta District Hospital in Visalia: $7.2 million dollars.
Tulare District Hospital: $1.5 million dollars.
Sierra View District Hospital in Porterville: $3 million dollars.

These are the shortfalls all three hospitals in Tulare County will face if the Governor's proposed 10% Medi-cal cuts are approved this summer.

Physician Parmod Kumar in Tulare says, "It affects the poorest of the poor in a very bad way."

The potential reduction in funding comes at one of the worst times for South Valley hospitals – when all three are trying to expand. Kaweah Delta already felt the overload in patients when a flu outbreak caused the hospital to set up a special tent to treat patients back in February. Kaweah Delta C.E.O. Lindsay Mann says the budget cuts won't stop construction, but will make it tough to pay the bills.

"It will, however, impact the funding that we've anticipated in the future to help pay for that expansion," says Mann.

Tulare District Hospital is also expanding. Officials say 68% of their patients are on Medi-cal or Medicare. They say the $1.5million dollar loss they could see this July will impact patient care. Parmod Kumor says, "I think the very poor people will suffer the most. This is the only hospital [in Tulare] they have access to and there is no way we can compensate for the $1.5 million of lost medical payment to the hospital."

Interim C.F.O. at Tulare District Hospital, John Church, says "Hopefully it won't affect the expansion directly but it could have an impact on employees, their benefits and hiring."

All three facilities say the cuts will mean an increase in people coming through the E.R., which actually costs the hospital more.

Hospital officials say Thursday was another example of the need to expand the medical center. Six people had to wait in the E.R. for up to six hours because the hospital was at capacity. Doctors say on average, the E.R. sees about 60 more people a day than it's meant to handle.

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