November 26, 2008 > Washington Hospital provides needed grant
Washington Hospital provides needed grant
Submitted By Christopher Brown
The Washington Township Health Care District Board of Directors has taken action to help stabilize the health care safety net for Southern Alameda County by approving a $1,500,000 intergovernmental grant to Alameda County to preserve St. Rose Hospital. The grant will ensure the hospital will qualify for loans needed to keep it operating and be able to make the necessary improvements associated with unfunded, state-mandated seismic upgrades.
Without the grant, St. Rose potentially would be faced with closing its doors. "The potential impact of St. Rose closing is catastrophic and it would have a devastating impact on our ability to provide Southern Alameda residents access to care," said Mike Wallace, president of the Washington Township Health Care District Board of Directors. "Nearly 15 percent of the patients St. Rose serves are from our District as well as a large number of the indigent and underserved for whom they provide care. Without this grant and without St. Rose, Washington Hospital would be severely tested as to its ability to effectively serve the residents of the Washington Township."
Of particular concern is the underserved pediatric population in the St. Rose service area. St. Rose operates a clinic which sees more than 14,000 children a year. MediCal insures 92 percent of these children and remaining 8 percent are uninsured. Without this clinic, this vulnerable population would potentially be without health care services. "Southern Alameda County has too few hospital beds already based on our population; without the compliment of critical care and emergency beds at St. Rose, if it were to close, our already busy emergency room would be overwhelmed and we would have a health and safety crisis for the community," said Nancy Farber, chief executive officer of Washington Hospital Healthcare System. "The more important issue is a humanitarian one. St. Rose cares for a large underserved population, a group that is often overlooked by institutions solely focused on the bottom line. We want to make sure that the underserved still have access to health care services close to where they live."
The current economic conditions coupled with market-based health-care reform, introduced during the 1990s, has caused financial strain, especially for those facilities with a large indigent and underserved population, like St. Rose. The consequences have resulted in placing health care services for this population in potential jeopardy.
"Since I've been with Alameda County, I've seen the number of hospitals in the area decline from 23 to 13 while our population has grown during this time by more than 500,000," said David Kears, director of Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, who will administer the grant. "My decision to stand before the Board, to make this grant request, was not a light one. The county has exhausted all options and will be working to match the grant from the Hospital with federal matching funds."
Both Washington Hospital and St. Rose Hospital are independent facilities and not associated with a larger health system. This independent status for St. Rose is complicated by the downturn in the economy and the severe tightening of the credit markets. These factors have not only affected St. Rose's ability to obtain the appropriate loans for construction as a result of seismic regulation, but its existing loans are causing a financial strain as well. "This is an example of how the national financial crisis can have a dramatic and negative affect on a fixture in the community like St. Rose," said Michael P. Mahoney, president and chief executive officer of St. Rose Hospital. "The support that Washington Hospital is providing shows the commitment of its Board of Directors to ensuring that health care services in Southern Alameda County remain solid and stable, even during challenging economic times."