You Said It: Financial troubles at Alameda Hospital

You Said It: Financial troubles at Alameda Hospital

Frank Matarrese

Alameda Hospital is in big financial trouble and cannot survive as it is. Lack of patients, competition from surrounding hospitals, and today’s form of healthcare are forcing change that will either doom our hospital or provide opportunity to improve urgent and emergency medical care within our Island City.

What seemed like a good idea in 2002 when Alamedans voted for a tax to keep the then-financially strapped hospital open has turned into a financial nightmare. Ten years later, finances are woeful.

Last year Alameda Hospital was so short of money that it had to take out a line of credit to pay suppliers. By the end of 2011 there was a reported loss in excess of $1.3 million. To make up for this loss, the Hospital’s elected Board voted to take over a private nursing home with plans to use some of the Medi-Cal/Medicare funding intended for high-needs patients under care in this facility to reduce the hospital’s deficit. To salvage financing for a planned wound care facility, the Board drained the fund generated by residential property donated to the hospital and took out a mortgage on that property.

In the meantime, Alameda Hospital’s competition, Kaiser and Summit among them, are constructing new state-of-the-art hospitals within easy reach of Alameda.

Our hospital has no funding for its mandated seismic retrofit, let alone new facilities. With a substantial number of Alamedans enrolled with Kaiser and new hospitals being built nearby, the future of our hospital—retrofitted or not—is bleak. Should Alameda Hospital continue its financial slide and have to shut down, Alameda taxpayers could very well be on the hook for any remaining debt, even if the hospital is closed. Meanwhile, because we are an island, the special needs for urgent and emergency medical service remain.

Back in 2010, the City Council offered to set up a liaison committee to work with Alameda Hospital and its Board, since both provide emergency medical service, hoping to work out a way to maintain urgent care and emergency life support within both collective budgets. Representatives from the hospital declined the proposal.

We are now in 2012. It’s time to re-think how we spend our precious emergency medical service dollars and consider transitioning away from the notion of maintaining a full service hospital with focus on a truly effective way for delivering urgent and emergency medical care tailored to Alameda’s island nature.

Frank Matarrese was a two-term City Councilman.

Comments

Submitted by tomcharron on Sat, Apr 7, 2012

Thank you Frank for a well grounded position. Hopefully soon the Alameda Hospital Administration and Board of Directors will begin to cimake fiscally responsible decisions for our insolvent heath facility.

Submitted by Karen Bey on Mon, Apr 9, 2012

I'd like to see us create a medical district at Alameda Point with the VA project jump starting the project. I'm not ready to give up or settle for anything less until we explore all possibilities.