By Chris Levister
Community Hospital of SB Reclaiming Local Hearts & Minds
As the 48 remaining patients were wheeled from the doomed Martin Luther
Hospital last week the question being
asked by residents in the Inland Empire is
‘Who will be the next casualty'?
While the L.A.
County hospital's struggle
for survival hinged on failed attempts to meet minimum standards for patient
care, health care experts warn more hospitals that serve the poor will close as
the numbers of poor and medically uninsured grow.
Tobey Robertson spokeswoman for Community Hospital San
Bernardino says she is not surprised to learn that the King-Harbor shutdown is
rekindling local fears.
"It's understandable, so we want to reassure residents that
we are committed to this community - We are not closing."
In 2004-05 Community Hospital of San Bernardino, credited
with saving the life of entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. following an auto accident,
weathered stinging criticism and public anxiety after threatening to shut its
"Fortunately we were never threatened with quality of care
issues," says Robertson. She is quick to point out that the hospital, a member
of Catholic Healthcare West, is fully accredited by the Joint Commission on
Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)," the leading accrediting
organization for hospitals.
"We were threatened financially but the outlook is
improving," says Robertson. During the last 18 months the hospital has
renegotiated higher federal and state reimbursements for patient services, and
launched a community relations campaign wrapped around "family-friendly", "just
like home" care.
"We're benefiting from the changing demographics and the
region's fast growing population. And now we are the closest Inland
Empire hospital to the newly completed 210 Freeway."
Community Hospital of San Bernardino once under threat of closure is rebounding with education outreach and the new 210 freeway expansion.
For nearly a century Community Hospital
has followed an unswerving credo to serve the poor. Yet uncompensated "free"
care, attracting and keeping good doctors and other staff, treating the
uninsured and dwindling Medicare/Medi-Cal payments make for a fragile balancing
The chief culprit experts say is Medi-Cal reimbursement
policy that requires hospitals to accept less than their own costs for health
care services provided to the poor.
"Hospital emergency departments (ED) are in an awkward
situation in that they really can't turn people away. And if someone is in really bad shape, you
can't stop and ask then to prepay or produce an insurance card," said Robertson
Records indicate the hospital's ED has about a 50% success
rate collecting on outstanding bills. Approximately 12,000 patients are
admitted to the Westside hospital each year and more than 100 people are
treated each day in its emergency room many of them immigrant, poor, uninsured,
very sick and have no money to pay.
Robertson says the hospital's broad community partnering
campaign takes education outreach directly to the citizens by way of a new
brightly colored van.
She says the van will be highly visible in the community.
Residents can now get a one-on-one course in diabetes and asthma prevention,
management and treatment.
"By emphasizing prevention, addressing underlying causes of
health problems and working together we can improve the health of our residents
while helping build a stronger healthier community."
Studies show the area around Community hospital suffers the
highest level of risk for conditions such as adolescent diabetes, hypertension
and asthma. Community offers children's immunizations, mammogram and prostate
screening and education classes in childbirth preparation, nutrition and heart
health. Free classes are offered in English and Spanish. A refurbished birthing
facility offers new mothers private labor, delivery and recovery suites.
In March the hospital went online using a $1.3 million
digital imaging computer network Picture Archival Communications System (PACS).
The state-of-the-art system does away with the need for bulky X-ray film images
and offers instant access to physicians and faster results for patients.
Community also installed a new 16-slice CT scanner offering
improved image depth and resolution for detection of cancer, heart disease,
internal injuries and other health conditions.
Robertson says residents worried about the future can rest
easy. "We are serious about patient quality and creating a healthier community.
The need is so great."