SALINAS, Calif. - Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System CEO Pete Delgado responded Friday to allegations that the hospital wants to partner with Natividad Medical Center to keep them from getting trauma center status.
The full OpEd piece is below:
A rare opportunity is before us, and unless we proceed cautiously, respectfully, and intelligently we jeopardize the future of healthcare on the Central Coast. Our county Board of Supervisors has a vision to create a superlative health care system for the residents of the Salinas Valley, integrating the best of both public hospitals--Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SMVHS) and Natividad Medical Center (NMC)—while overcoming financial obstacles currently facing the county hospital, Natividad. That's why county representatives approached leadership at Salinas Valley Memorial, asking SVMHS to bring the two hospitals together.
Like so many other hospitals across our country, Natividad is facing serious financial challenges, with a projected loss this fiscal year of $9 million. The County's own projections anticipate even greater losses due to healthcare reform. Leaders at NMC believe creating trauma services will increase their revenue. Unfortunately, that belief is rooted in a faulty financial analysis based on 2009 data. Updated data show a decline in the number of trauma cases in our region (fortunately), and a decline in private insurance. 2012 data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development reveal losses that could potentially climb an additional $5 million a year for Natividad—hardly what Monterey County taxpayers need to shoulder, particularly since there is an option that would create a trauma center at no additional cost to taxpayers.
Uninformed critics question why SVMHS would want to provide trauma services to the community if they are not a revenue generator. There is a simple answer. Providing Level II Trauma is a community service not a turnkey moneymaker. It is a risky proposition and one SVMHS can take only because we already have most of the equipment and personnel in place to achieve success. As much as we all acknowledge the need for advanced trauma service in our community, if SVMHS had to build a trauma center from the same starting place as NMC, there would be reason to pause. Because of long term investments already bought and paid for, we do not face the same dilemma as the County and do not need to risk using taxpayer or district dollars on a gamble whose odds look worse with every financial update.
Salinas Valley Memorial is a local, union-affiliated public district hospital with publically elected leadership and a nearly identical mission to Natividad. For many years there has been an informal collaborative process where SVMHS has provided services for the majority of patients presenting to NMC with problems requiring care not offered at Natividad, including cancer care, heart surgery, and neurosurgery. Despite providing millions in uncompensated services, SVMHS is doing well financially, anticipating a profit greater than $20 million this year, all of which will be use to strengthen the organization and provide outstanding patient care. Additionally SVMH has a long history of extremely high quality care. (See the website www.hospitalsafetyscore.org/ to review safety measures of the local hospitals.)
SVMHS remains dedicated to the health care of the community. We remain willing to participate in creating a financially sustainable outstanding integrated health care system for Monterey County. Unfortunately, our willingness to explore this option has been publically vilified and characterized as a ploy to bring trauma services to SVMHS. Intense political pressure has now been placed on the Board of Supervisors to discontinue the affiliation discussion. Those who envision this as an SVMHS "take over" have ignored the fact that the Board of Supervisors came to SVMHS (not the other way around) well before a trauma decision.
The county—and the community—have a decision to make. Embrace the concept of a new era in healthcare where together we create a model system of collaboration that improves healthcare for our entire community, or continue with business as usual, watch taxpayer dollars chase the dream of a quick fix for our county hospital, and unnecessarily spend millions of taxpayer dollars in the pursuit. Supervisors must take a broad view to consider what is best for community health, and not cater to any particular interest group. As health care providers and county residents we have serious concerns about the safety and financial implications of NMC proceeding down this current path and endorse a greater health care vision for our community.
Christina Hinz, MD
Chief of Staff, SVMHS