Sutter Health, Eden Medical Center
Physicians

Work in progress, courtesy of DPR Construction

Work continues on the main elevators. Once construction of two critical elevators is complete, the exterior lift will be taken down and the building exterior will be complete, leaving the new structure “water tight.”  The photos below show the steady progress, from above and a silhouette of a worker welding inside the elevator shaft.

A view from above:

elevator-shaft-weld

A closer look:

welding-in-elevator-shaft


Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

We recently held an Open House for employees to learn more about the new hospital construction and explore the layout of the new facility and campus. It was at this event that many staff members learned for the first time that, when the new hospital opens in 2013, the campus will be smoke free.

A smoke-free campus means that smoking will not be allowed anywhere on the hospital property, including the grounds, gardens and parking areas, by any person – including employees, physicians, volunteers, patients and visitors.

We are taking this bold step because the new hospital brings a renewed and heightened commitment to our mission to improve the health of the individuals and communities we serve. Without a doubt, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. We believe that we have a responsibility to take a leadership role on this major health issue and promote a healthier environment.

Eden Medical Center has offered an array of smoking cessation programs for many years to help decrease tobacco use in our community. Looking ahead, we will multiply our outreach efforts and use coaching and support to address staff and visitors using tobacco on hospital grounds. Tobacco-free initiatives have the potential to improve the health of thousands, reduce health care costs, improve workplace safety and contribute to community health improvement.

Hospitals across the country are adopting smoke-free campus policies successfully by reaching out to staff, patients and visitors with effective alternatives to smoking to reduce stress. As a leader in improving health care in our community, we believe this effort is well worth undertaking.

This is just the beginning of this conversation about a smoke-free campus.
We welcome suggestions from you and leading health experts on the most effective ways to reduce tobacco use and boost our outreach efforts.

“There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco smoke is deadly.”
Dr. Richard H. Carmona,
U.S. Surgeon General Report, July 2006

Straight Talk from the CEO
By George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center

hello-eden

Since the early stages of planning to replace Eden Medical Center, there’s been a lingering question on people’s minds: what name will the new hospital carry? All of the initial planning and building documents have used the name Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley, and the reference has stayed with us through construction and even on this blog site.

We were well aware that many people in the community, and certainly within the Eden family itself, were disappointed at the prospect of losing the original name

The name Eden has been connected with the hospital since it opened in 1954 has come to mean so much for the thousands of people who have been treated here for illness and injury, who delighted at the birth of a child or participated in our events and classes. For the thousands of employees, physicians and volunteers here, the name Eden is as familiar as family..

So, today I am pleased to tell you that the name will continue. Eden Medical Center will be the name of the new hospital when it opens.

I share in the excitement of this conclusion, because of what it has meant and continues to mean to our community. There is a history here that cannot and will not be erased, and a legacy will be passed on to future generations to continue the excellent and compassionate care that you have come to expect.

loma prieta cypress

Photo of the collapsed Cypress Overpass, courtesy of U.S. Geological Society.

by Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

This week we are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake. The media will cover the remembrances, the progress we have made since then, the victims, the heroes.

Those of us who were around then have memories of this momentous event. My memories are perhaps much more vivid than most. That single event changed my life, changed my career, and ignited in me a passion for health care and the important work we do.

I had worked at Eden Hospital only 2 months when the earthquake hit. My boss was on vacation, camping in the desert far away from news of the quake, and I was a newbie just learning the ropes.  I left work that day just before 5 to get home to meet some friends to watch the World Series.  I was driving my VW convertible down Castro Valley Blvd. when the ground started shaking and the road before me started moving like a snake.  I thought my tires were falling off and that the street lights above would fall on me!  I drove the few minutes to get home, only to find the power out and the phones dead. So I headed back to the hospital to check in, as per our protocol

I didn’t leave the hospital for two days.

We had 42 patients from earthquake-related injuries that night in Emergency and Trauma. The worst were from the Cypress structure collapse in Oakland, brought to our Trauma Center. Not knowing the details, I went first to the Emergency Room, where I sat and listened to one young man talk about leaving his car on the collapsed upper portion of the freeway, climbing down the side of the concrete rubble, and then calling his mom to pick him up. He had an injury to his mouth and was shaken, but he told us the details of what happened. I still remember his face, his name, the shocking details of his story. The TV in the corner of the waiting room was showing news coverage from Oakland and San Francisco, and I got word out to the hospital staff so they would know what was happening.

We set up the Command Center sometime later. Soon, the reporters started showing up and the media calls poured in from all over the country, all over the world. Gloria, my co-worker, and I gathered information from every department, and talked to patients and families. As the spokesperson for the hospital, I conducted interviews for the next two days and, as it turned out, for many months that followed. I was so tired at 4 a.m. when Harry Smith from CBS New York called that I could hardly get the words out.  It wasn’t my best interview, but I was new at this!  We tried our hardest to keep all the information straight: how many patients, where they were from, what their injuries were. We had calls from families trying to find loved ones. We had calls from local residents wanting to know how to help. Reporters from other parts of the country were under the impression that the entire SF Bay Area was reduced to rubble, and they wondered how we could even take care of patients.

Over the next several days, I got to know so many of the patients and their stories. Some did interviews, some just wanted to talk privately. Some couldn’t talk, their injuries were so severe the nurses didn’t think they would survive. Two patients from one van on the Cypress freeway were the most severely injured, but they survived, and I remember them and their stories as if it were yesterday. I met their families and got to know them over the next six months or so. And I saw the incredible care that Eden Medical Center’s staff provided. The doctors, the nurses, the respiratory therapists, physical therapists, social workers: all of them played such an important role in their medical and emotional care.

It was because of this experience that I knew that I was in the right place, that the mission and purpose of our organization was alive and carried out in the most complex, and the simplest, ways. We all made a difference, and we were all here for one reason: to take care of the people who need us in the most critical times.  It didn’t matter what our role was, we all had a responsibility to take care of them and their families.  I didn’t check vitals or change dressings, but i could spend time with each of them, help them process what had happened, help them tell their stories if they wanted. I could help their families and our staff with simple things to make their lives there easier.

A year later, we held a press conference with a couple of the patients who survived, along with their doctors and nurses. It was an emotionally charged event, before and after the conference, for one patient in particular. The memories were so vivid and frightening, but she wanted, or perhaps needed, to talk about it, to see the trauma surgeon and staff, to process what had happened. Years later I saw her and her colleague on a PBS special, talking about their lives since the earthquake. My heart ached, and still does, for the pain they endured. Their lives were never the same.  I don’t know where they are now, but I still think of them, pray for them, and wonder if they were able to persevere.

Five years after the earthquake, I met a woman who came into the hospital to give birth to twin boys.  She, too, was severely injured in the earthquake and came to our trauma center that night. She had such severe abdominal injuries that she was told later by her doctor that she would not be able to have children. But life had other plans for her. On this day, October 17, 1994 — the 5th anniversary of the quake — she gave birth to her “miracle” boys. The trauma surgeon who saved her life 5 years earlier assisted in the delivery. They are 15 now, and I wonder if they know how incredible their story is.

These stories, and many others, are on my mind as we approach the 20th anniversary of the quake. It amazes me how much our lives are intertwined by such an event. And how each person I met has their own memories, and their own scars.

I am also grateful for the experience, for all that I learned as a result, and for finding my passion in my career. Today, as I work with the Project Team to build a new hospital, I am reminded why this project is so important. I am proud of the tradition of care at Eden, and proud to be working toward construction of a new hospital so that the tradition can continue for many years to come.

Sutter Medical  Center Faces Costly Delay, Loss of Construction Jobs as State Deadline Looms

The California Nurses Association (CNA) has filed a lawsuit that threatens the future of the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley now under construction.

That the nurses union would sue to stop us from building our new hospital after a decade of planning is extremely frustrating to our employees, physicians, volunteers and patients who have worked so hard and so long for this,” said Eden Medical Center President & CEO George Bischalaney. “This political action by the union hurts everyone, puts thousands of jobs in jeopardy, threatens the future of the hospital and could cause irreparable harm to the community.

This type of action drives up the cost of health care for everyone. After an exhaustive and inclusive public process, the union’s lawsuit could mean will not be able to meet the State’s 2013 deadline to replace the Eden hospital. Not meeting the deadline could result in closure of current hospital before the new hospital is completed and certified for occupancy.”

The Environmental Impact Report and land use entitlements were approved by the Castro Valley Municipal Advisory Council, the Alameda County Planning Commission and Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The first phase of construction has been approved by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Alameda County granted necessary permits and construction started July 1.

The new medical campus will create more than a 1,000 union jobs during the three years of construction and pump millions of dollars into the local economy benefiting many local businesses.

Construction crews demolished the vacant Pine Cone Apartment complex and began relocating the helipad and are readying the site for the foundation of the $320 million, seven-story, 130-bed hospital and regional trauma center. The new medical center will expand needed emergency and urgent care services. A new 80,000-square-foot medical office building for physicians is also planned. Sutter Health is financing the entire project with no public taxes or funding.

Sutter has invested more than $200 million in capital in Eden Medical Center’s facilities since acquiring the hospital from the Eden Township Healthcare District in 1998. The new hospital and medical office buildings would bring this investment in the regional medical campus and trauma center to more than $600 million by 2013.

George Bischalaney, President and CEO, Eden Medical Center

By George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center

Health care reform is on the agenda, again. The stakes are high, but our President is determined to make some significant changes. As the discussion moves from general to specifics, special interests are staking out their positions. None of the stakeholders—hospitals included—wants to feel the impact or be at a disadvantage.

Amidst the demand for cost reduction and health care coverage for all, there is and must be continued investment in care. Physicians demand it. They expect to be able to practice with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities to produce outcomes that meet national, state and local quality standards. Patients demand it. They want to know that their local hospital has the right number of well-trained staff as well as the latest diagnostic and treatment equipment, and contemporary facilities.

With this backdrop of conflicting needs, Eden Medical Center is about to begin a three-year project that will result in the replacement of the Castro Valley hospital. The project cost is estimated to be $320 million. The current 55-year-old building is anything but contemporary. With few private rooms, small operating rooms and inadequate support space for clinical services, a new hospital is very much needed.

Eden Medical Center has served the community well, but it was not designed for patient comfort and needs, more for staff needs and functionality. While our project may seem ill timed given the uncertainty of hospital reimbursement, we are required to meet California legislated standards for seismic safety in hospitals. And it truly is needed.

We’ll celebrate our long sought goal with a ground-breaking ceremony on July 1st. Then we’ll spend the next three years continuing the investment in the new buildings and equipment, while observing and hoping that decision makers do not enact legislation that essentially penalizes us for the commitment we are making. When we celebrate the grand opening and our new beginning early in 2013, it should be with the same hope and dreams as those who celebrated the first ceremony in 1954.

By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

To follow up on the May 12, 2009 Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, the decision to certify the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been delayed to June 9th to address concerns raised about San Leandro Hospital, which is leased and operated as part of Eden Medical Center, but owned by the Eden Township Healthcare District (the District).  For more information, please see our previous blog post.

In the days prior to the May 12th meeting, after many rounds of public commentary, and after the EIR and related land use entitlements were approved by the Castro Valley MAC (Municipal Advisory Council) and the Alameda County Planning Commission, several community members and labor representatives raised last minute concerns about parts of the EIR. Those opposed to the EIR certification claim that there was not an adequate assessment of the impact of any possible closure or change of services at San Leandro Hospital, despite the fact that the EIR consultant and County planning staff have stated that the EIR is complete and the issues around San Leandro Hospital, while not related to the project, have no impact on the project. Supervisor Nate Miley made a motion for the Board to meet again to make the decision on June 9, 2009, which would provide attorneys for Alameda County an opportunity to examine these claims in more detail.

Supervisors Miley and Haggerty voiced their concerns about speakers making false or misleading allegations as a political tactic, in order to delay the EIR approval process, thereby “holding the Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley project for ransom,” which he and the other Supervisors warned could endanger the future of both Eden and San Leandro Hospitals. While there has been no decision by Sutter Health or the District on the future of San Leandro Hospital, the issue remains a topic of community discussion.

Eden Medical Center President & CEO George Bischalaney and other Sutter and Eden project team members emphasized the urgency of not going beyond June 9th to approve the EIR, as the delay of even a month could significantly hold up construction and may cause Sutter Health to withdraw its support from both hospitals. Sutter Health has already promised the $320 million to pay for the completion of the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley.

At the conclusion of the May 12th meeting, the four Supervisors present, with Supervisor Keith Carson absent, voiced their support for the new hospital project and the need to rebuild Eden Medical Center. They also are concerned about the future of San Leandro Hospital, and that concerns over San Leandro should perhaps be discussed in another forum, unrelated to the land use entitlements for Eden.

As our project team discussed in previous articles and blog posts and at the hearing, any delays in approvals and construction have serious repercussions, in terms of meeting state deadlines to rebuild, in creating a safe environment for patients and staff, and in funding this major project. The new hospital must be rebuilt, or it will close as an acute care facility effective January 1, 2013. We now have before us a fully funded hospital project—without public funding or taxes—that will secure the future of Eden Medical Center, preserve jobs and bring nearly 1,000 construction jobs to the region at a time when the economy is depressed and construction is drying up.

As I stated before, the issues around San Leandro Hospital are complex and important.  The community has a right to know what is happening. But the information being discussed now is no different that it has been for the past several years: the hospital is struggling and must be reinvented to bring value to the community and ensure that it can sustain itself over time.  It is clear to me that the residents of San Leandro desire a full service community hospital, yet the majority of them will never use it. The community and local elected officials have known that this is a concern, and yet this last minute effort to stop the EIR based on what some claim to be “new information” is not justified. San Leandro Hospital, its employees, physicians and patients need to be part of the solution for the hospital, to be discussed in its own forum with regional providers who can bring truth and substance to the discussion.  It should not be used as a political maneuver to stop Sutter Health from rebuilding Eden.

Please speak up, let our Board of Supervisors know they must not delay any further.  These delays put both hospitals in jeopardy. I encourage you to stand up and let your voice be heard on this issue.  Don’t just wait for the next hearing, but instead pick up the phone or send a letter to the Board and let them know you support the new hospital project, and encourage them to certify the EIR so the project can move forward before it’s too late.

Call today!

Supervisor Nate Miley — 510-272-6694

Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker — 510-272-6693

Supervisor Gail Steele — 510-272-6692

Supervisor Keith Carson — 510-272-6695

Supervisor Scott Haggerty — 510-272-6691

By Cassandra Clark, Project Communications Director

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED!

We are only a week away from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors hearing in which the Board will consider the Final Environmental Impact Report, zoning changes, and Castro Valley general plan changes. We are asking for your support at this critical step.

Local groups and some residents of San Leandro are applying fierce political pressure on the Board members to deny approval. Their reason? The future of San Leandro Hospital is unknown, and therefore they are pressuring the Board of Supervisors to require Sutter Health to keep San Leandro Hospital open as a condition of approving the land use for the new hospital in Castro Valley.

What wrong with this?  First of all, the Board of Supervisors are not voting on the future of San Leandro Hospital—they are having a public hearing on the land use entitlements and certifying the EIR. To delay or deny approval based on pressure about San Leandro is wrong.

The future of San Leandro Hospital is not and should not be tied to the new hospital. Indeed, San Leandro Hospital is a critical issue that must be addressed—and it requires a regional solution, more careful planning, and a separate focus than this project.  It’s an important issue that cannot be overlooked, for the sake of the staff, physicians and patients. But the complex issues at one hospital should not be tied to the land use entitlements for the new hospital project.

Simply stated, by delaying plans for the new hospital, the Board will jeopardize the future of Eden AND San Leandro hospitals.

I am asking you to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting on May 12 and SPEAK UP in favor of our new hospital. Speakers are limited to 3 minutes, but a simple 30-second statement is powerful. The Board needs to know that residents of Castro Valley and surrounding communities want and need this new hospital, without delays.

Meeting details:

Tuesday, May 12
1:00 p.m.

Board of Supervisors Meeting Chambers
1221 Oak Street, Oakland

If you cannot attend the meeting, we need to you to contact the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and have you voice your opinion. It is so important that the Board hears from everyone, especially since the majority of people in our community support this project (an astounding 80% of community members are in favor according to recent polls!).

Call your Supervisors today!

Supervisor Nate Miley — 510-272-6694

Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker — 510-272-6693

Supervisor Gail Steele — 510-272-6692

Supervisor Keith Carson — 510-272-6695

Supervisor Scott Haggerty — 510-272-6691

Thank you for your continued support!

As always, we also appreciate your comments and questions on this blog, and we’ll respond as quickly as possible.

Main Entrance at Twilight

The new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley, which will replace Eden Hospital.

 

By Jack Alotto, President & CEO of Eden Medical Center Foundation

My name is Jack Alotto. I am the President & CEO of Eden Medical Center Foundation.  I’ve been raising money for non-profit organizations for more than 20 years in health care as well as the arts and social services. At Seton Medical Center Foundation in Daly City, we raised more than $1 million and increased Seton’s employee giving campaign by 600% in my first year.

I also started the first planned giving program for the City Library of Santa Clara, California. We even created a used bookstore and café called Friends of the Library—we made great cappuccinos!

For the past two years now, I’ve been steering the ship at Eden Foundation, and we are fortunate to have a very active board with 17 members, including Lawrence Dickinson, M.D., one of the top neurosurgeons in the East Bay and our board chairman.

All the money we raise helps ensure that patients and the community we care for have the most technologically advanced, highest quality care available. We pay for medical equipment, clinical training and continuing education for our staff, plus health education seminars for our community, and health care for our uninsured residents.

I’m proud to say that in the last two years we’ve raised more than $4,000,000, while keeping our costs surprisingly low. We owe our highest admiration and heartfelt gratitude to you, our patients and members of the community for your generous donations and participation in our special events. And a special thank you to our physicians and employees who give the Foundation tremendous support.

Take a look at the prolific list of equipment and community service programs your donations paid for last year. Donor Gifts Have Gone a Long Way in 2008…

With contributions from individuals, physicians and staff, corporations and foundations, Eden Medical Center Foundation has made the following gifts to Eden Medical Center:

Tools to Enhance Patient Care

•    A new CT Scanner for San Leandro Hospital provides improved diagnostic services to inpatients and outpatients
•    Laerdal Airway Management Training equipment for trauma nurses to sharpen their airway management skills through realistic practice
•    Two blood pressure/pulse ox/temperature monitors keep triage equipment up-to-date
•    Four new trauma monitors providing state-of-the-art monitoring of trauma patients to enable health care providers to have immediate and ongoing assessment of trauma patients
•    An exercise bicycle at Laurel Grove Hospital helps rehabilitation patients recover more quickly
•    A golf cart for Food and Nutritional Services provides prompt service to patients and reduce the risk of injury to employees
•    New IV poles and wheelchairs help nurses and department staff to provide better patient care
•    A new LCD/DVD supports ongoing training for Emergency Room and trauma staff
•    Bladder scanners allow the neurology/medical/surgical unit and 5th floor surgery department to perform noninvasive monitoring for postoperative patients
•    A JUZO Perometer in Rehabilitation Services enhances the level of patient care provided to lymphedema patients
•    X-ray imaging is performed during vascular and orthopedic surgical procedures through the use of a radiolucent surgical table
•    A pediatric bronchoscope is life-saving equipment trauma surgeons use to address breathing problems of children in the trauma center, thus saving a trip to the operating room.
•    Radiology techs underwent training on the best use of the Toshiba Fluoroscopy and Multi-Purpose room to facilitate better patient care.

 Community Services

•    Free senior flu clinics were held at San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center
•    A Women’s Health Symposium at Eden Medical Center provided an evening of free education on the health risks women face
•    Eden Medical Center hosts five cancer support groups for patients and families facing cancer, caregivers and for people mourning a loss.
•    Continuing education for nurses keeps Eden’s nurses up-to-date on the latest in health care
•    Students at Skyline High School, San Leandro High School and Castro Valley High School go through the anti-alcohol and drug program, Every 15 Minutes
•    Social Work Services provides shelter for transients recovering from a wound
•    Support for Spiritual Care volunteers working in Social Work Services department
•    GE Medical Systems Bone Densitometry Screening equipment allows Eden provide free screening at health fairs and community events
•    Community members and Eden employees can take part in smoking cessation programs
•    Emergency First Aid Guidelines assist local school staff members in responding to emergencies until medical staff can arrive.

 Besides funding projects for our two hospitals in Castro Valley and San Leandro, we have taken on raising money for Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley, the hospital that will replace Eden Medical Center.

My vision is that once the doors open, our Foundation will pay for anything the new medical center needs! We have already started our fundraising efforts; last year’s Golf Tournament, which netted more than $60,000, was the first fundraiser on behalf of the new buildings.

 

Main Entrance

So here is our wish list for Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley:

Equipment Enhancements
The Need: $25 million

Your generous contribution could provide technological and equipment updates so doctors and nurses can provide patients at the new Sutter Medical Center Castro Valley with the best in medical care. Advancements in technology for medical tools and equipment mean patients can experience less pain and discomfort, and doctors can perform less invasive procedures. This can translate into shorter recovery times and decreased hospital stays so patients can go home sooner. We constantly strive to improve a patient’s health care experience and state-of-the-art equipment and technology helps us to meet this goal.

Intensive Care, Critical Care and Trauma Center Upgrades
The Need: $15 million

Consider making a gift to help patients in intensive care, critical care and trauma comfortably and safely recover from surgery and other medical procedures. New beds, patient monitors, bedside equipment, and state-of –the-art nurse call systems will improve a patient’s stay and help doctors and nurses better attend to the needs of each patient.

Medical and Surgical Floor Enhancements
The Need: $6 million

Philanthropic support will help us purchase beds and other patient room equipment for Labor and Delivery, the Neuroscience Center and Medical and Surgical Units.

Outpatient Surgery Enhancements
The Need: $3 million

Higher image quality and patient comfort are combined in the newest tools used by physicians and nurses. Your generous gift will enable the Outpatient Surgery Department to replace older, outdated equipment with the latest technology at the new hospital.

We have many giving programs and named gift opportunities available to our donors. If you would like more information about our work at the Foundation and how you can support the new hospital, please call me at the Foundation office at 510-889-5033, or email me.

We invite you to visit the new You Can Help page on this blog and donate safely and securely online.

George Bischalaney, President and CEO, Eden Medical Center

 

By George Bischalaney, President & CEO, Eden Medical Center

Last week, the Obama Administration kicked off its efforts to address one the President’s stated priorities, health care reform.  What does that mean, and what will be the result? I wish I really knew.

According to the President’s advisers—and Obama himself during the campaign—there is a need to extend health care coverage to millions of uninsured people across the country, while reducing cost and improving quality. Truly admirable goals with which very few could disagree.

Early discussion of President Obama’s plan calls for creating a savings of $634 billion over the next ten years to help fund reform. A recent article referred to this as a “down payment” on the overall expected costs. About half of this amount is targeted to come from reduced payments to Medicare and Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) providers. On the surface, this is a disquieting concept.

Not too long ago, Eden Medical Center was recognized as one of lowest cost hospital providers in California. It should be no surprise that our costs have risen over the past few years. We have invested heavily in new equipment, both in medical technology and information technology, in order to continue to bring state-of-the-art services to our communities, and to provide our physicians and clinical staff the best tools to diagnose and treat our patients.

Last year, our labor settlement with registered nurses resulted in a three-year agreement that will give the nurses a 20% wage increase over the term of the agreement in addition to improved benefits. This kept our wages comparable to other local hospitals.

One of the benefits Eden Medical Center employees enjoy is a fully paid health plan for themselves and their families. Last year, the average cost was approximately $22,000 per year for an employee and family.

Despite these costs, Eden remains one of the lowest cost providers when compared to peer groups throughout the State. But as can be imagined, it is difficult to contain costs in our environment, especially when 60% of our costs are employee-related expenses. We are, after all, a service industry that is people- and technologically-driven.

The early announcements about health care reform create some concern. To expect to realize the savings needed to fund the plan through reduced payments to health care providers is very troubling.

Physicians are increasingly affected by efforts to reduce reimbursement. Many physicians talk of extending their days, working longer hours, much of which is devoted to the increasing amount of paperwork demanded from them. At the same time, we as patients expect them to remain current in the knowledge of new drugs and treatments in order to serve us to the best of their ability. This is resulting in a shrinking primary care base at a time when our population is aging. How does the plan for reform intend to address this?

Government payers of healthcare services for hospitals—the Federal Government for Medicare, and the State for Medi-Cal—are not paying the full cost of care at the present time. For each patient that is covered by Medicare or Medi-Cal, the cost to care for that patient exceeds current reimbursement. Further reductions will increase the gap that is, out of necessity, made up by insured patients—those lucky enough to have coverage through their employers. This is a cycle that needs to be broken if we are to have true health care reform.

The problems with our health care system are very complex. Reducing payments in an attempt to reduce costs will not yield the full reforms that are needed. I can only hope that this is not another piecemeal approach to change. A broader view of the systemic issues is needed. With the President’s staff talking about implementing reforms by the end of this year, it is questionable as to whether or not this will actually occur.

As always, your questions and comments are welcome. We will respond as quickly as possible.


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