Open Letter From Jim Lott of the Hospital Association of Southern California, to the Members, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors

May 16, 2003, 01:00 ET from Hospital Association of Southern California

    LOS ANGELES, May 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Jim Lott of the Hospital Association
 of Southern California, sent the following letter, dated May 16, to the
 Members, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors:
     May 16, 2003
     TO:        Members, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
                      Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Chair
                      Supervisor Gloria Molina
                      Supervisor Zev Yarslovsky
                      Supervisor Don Knabe
                      Supervisor Mike Antonovich
     FROM:      Jim Lott, Executive Vice President
                Hospital Association of Southern California
     SUBJECT:   Health Department Finance and Restructuring
     On behalf of the private-sector hospitals serving communities throughout
 Los Angeles County, please know that we empathize greatly with your
 frustration regarding the court's intervention in your efforts to restructure
 the County hospital system.  As you know, in recent times many of our
 community hospitals have experienced government interference in their efforts
 to implement drastically needed economies as well.  We are having difficulty,
 though, understanding the disparaging public rhetoric about private hospitals
 coming from members of your board and your health department.
     Though we haven't always agreed with some of your restructuring
 strategies, we have for the most part supported your efforts.  For example, we
 actively supported and campaigned for the passage of Measure B last November,
 and we supported the federal proposal to divert another $50 million from the
 private hospitals' share of the Medi-Cal Outpatient Lawsuit Settlement to help
 shore up your health system.
     Moreover, in addition to providing much needed jobs and vital medical care
 to your constituents, private hospitals provided 35.1 percent of the inpatient
 hospital services needed by the uninsured residents of Los Angeles County in
 2001.  (This percentage is calculated from data reported by hospitals for
 calendar year 2001 -- the latest full year for which complete data is
 available -- and it represents the percentage of inpatient discharges where no
 health insurance and/or government funding source was identified.)  And
 private hospitals did this without Realignment dollars and other subsidies
 available to County hospitals to help defray the cost of providing hospital
 inpatient care to the other 64.9 percent.  Likewise, we are confident that
 much has not changed since 2001 because the number of transfers of indigent
 patients from private hospitals to county hospitals has steadily declined
 since 1999.
     We felt we needed to point these things out because the public comments
 attributed to County officials imply that private-sector hospitals somehow are
 not contributing "their fair share ... " during these financially desperate
 times for County hospitals and, we would add, many private-sector hospitals.
     Also, we believe that the comparisons being made about how indigent
 medical care delivery policies and programs work in other counties versus Los
 Angeles County lack merit and are therefore pointless to put forth.  We must
 remember: (a) the number of uninsured residents residing in Los Angeles County
 outnumbers the entire populations of all but maybe one of the remaining
 57 counties in California; and (b) six of the remaining 26 county hospitals in
 California are located in Los Angeles.  Our needs and the demands placed on
 our public and private hospital system are vastly different and more severe
 than those experienced by any other county in our state or any municipality in
 the nation, except for maybe New York City.
     Looking forward, we need and want to work with you in keeping our fragile
 public and private hospital emergency services system viable.  As you know, at
 any given time, ambulances are scrambling with critically ill patients on
 board to find emergency rooms that are not closed due to overcrowding.  For
 this and other equally compelling reasons, we must work together to maintain
 our current symbiosis and to produce the synergies needed to resolve the
 problems facing both sectors.  Accordingly, we look forward to working with
 you on the following:
      --  Improving access to care for the uninsured and underinsured
      --  Securing adequate funding for safety net providers that serve poor
          and uninsured patients.
      --  Insuring that payments to hospitals are sufficient to cover the
          rising cost for providing medical care and to secure financial
      --  Securing financial sources for building projects required by the
          state seismic-safety laws.
      --  Building a health care workforce that can meet the service needs of
          our expanding and aging population.
      --  Opposing further unfunded government mandates.
     As always, please call on our organization to help with this agenda and
 any other issues that need to be addressed to keep both hospital sectors from
 entering a financial meltdown.
     cc:   David Janssen, CAO
           Tom Garthwaite, M.D., DHS Director

SOURCE Hospital Association of Southern California