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February 14, 2012 > Why St. Rose Hospital must survive

Why St. Rose Hospital must survive

By Nadia Lockyer, Alameda County Supervisor District 2

For almost 50 years, St. Rose Hospital, Hayward, has provided cost effective and high quality care to both the insured and uninsured residents of Hayward and southern Alameda County. St. Rose is what a hospital should be - deeply-rooted in the community it serves, focused on quality patient care and operated with a commitment to its mission and the belief that health care is a right, not a profit center.

St. Rose provides 35,000 emergency department visits annually and more than half of its in-patient care is for low-income patients. While a private hospital governed by an independent board of directors, St. Rose is a community hospital that plays a critical role in Alameda County's safety net system.

Operating a hospital on the principles of equity and access with a high percentage of under-insured and uninsured patients is a huge challenge. This has become increasingly true over the last few years with the economic downturn and with state and federal cuts. St. Rose has bravely responded to these challenges but, in recent months, has faced recurring negative cash flow balances.

You, the voters, have helped support St. Rose through an annual allocation of Measure A funds, the half-cent sales tax for health care that is so essential to our safety net. Alameda County has successfully leveraged these scarce, local dollars with federal matching dollars, bringing in more than $1.25M per year in federal funding for the hospital. In 2009 Alameda County committed an additional $7M from our reserves and created the St. Rose Emergency Fund to help support St. Rose's operation and secure financing to add 30 critically needed acute care beds in central Alameda County. Since 2006, Alameda County has provided or leveraged more than $40M of support for St. Rose.

The magnitude of cash shortfalls required the County to work with the hospital to secure additional financing. We worked with St. Rose's management and state and local experts to identify financial and operational improvement opportunities. St. Rose has moved aggressively to take action on these recommendation plans and significant progress has been made.

While I welcome these changes and recognize the hard decisions that have been made to implement them, they are not sufficient to secure the long term future of the hospital. More tough decisions are ahead: St. Rose needs new partnerships, funding, and operating efficiencies to survive.

In conjunction with our Health Care Services Agency, I am leading discussions with local hospital districts regarding a merged governance and operational structure that formally recognizes the role St. Rose plays in our safety net while simultaneously taking advantage of the operational efficiencies and enhanced reimbursements that district hospitals enjoy.

I support St. Rose Hospital's belief that health care is a right and not a profit machine; hence my determination to assist them as much as I can. While my role has been to facilitate discussions, St. Rose is not a public hospital under the Board of Supervisor's jurisdiction. It is St. Rose's Board of Directors that will decide the best option for the hospital's long-term sustainability. I have played, and shall continue to play, a supportive role to keep St. Rose open. Simply put, I believe St. Rose must not only survive, it must thrive.

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