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Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

Hospitals Big, Small Grapple with Fundraising

As local medical facilities struggle with a number of hurdles, an aging population is another that they must face in the next several years. But with investments in the latest technology, for the most part Valley-area hospitals are getting ready for the Baby Boomers, a generation that is expected to have a huge effect on hospitals for the next several decades. As the generation that promises to stay active begins to hit senior citizen age, hospitals are investing in the latest diagnostic technology for joint, bone and brain scans, even if that equipment carries a big price tag. “It’s all high tech, high dollar stuff,” said Kerry Carmody, hospital administrator at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. “Everything that has to do with imaging is one and a half million dollars plus construction.” Generally considered the generation born between 1946 and 1964 and totaling approximately 76 million people, the Boomers have now begun to enter their sixties. Just as their numbers influenced society in their younger years, so their numbers will continue to influence not only health care but retailers, government, schools and housing. “People will not want to climb stairs so condos that are two-story will be harder to sell to an older population,” said Jerome Seliger, a professor in health administration and public health at California State University at Northridge. Boomers will also bring a different perspective to the notion of retirement The idea of retiring and then traveling or doing what they want to do is less and less common among that age group, said Mark Beach, a California spokesman for the American Association of Retired People. “Many think of second careers; many think of volunteering,” Beach said. According to 2000 census figures for Los Angeles County, residents falling into the Boomer age group made up about 16.2 percent of the population. In the Santa Clarita Valley, officials at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital are paying close attention to what medical services it can offer to older patients in the future. “We need the beds, the specialists, the technology and the medical buildings to house all this,” said Andie Bogdan , director of planning, marketing and public relations for the Valencia hospital. At both Henry Mayo and Providence Holy Cross, the short-term response to Boomer medical care has been in the area of the heart, most specifically with heart catherization labs that will be needed by that population. The size and age of the Boomer generation necessitated Henry Mayo installing a cath lab in recent years, a service that had never been offered before, Bogdan said. Providence Holy Cross upgraded its old cath lab and added a new one, Carmody said, describing cardiac stenting as “primarily a Baby Boomer procedure.” A cath lab is also available at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center. Stents, small stainless steel coils or scaffolds, are used with angioplasty to keep blood vessels open and maintain blood flow to the heart. The procedure is less evasive than what had been done in the past. A bad ticker, however, will not be the only health concerns Boomers face. As people age, some will get out of shape and not exercise as much leading to weight problems and triggering unmanaged diabetes, said Seliger, who helped Mission Community Hospital set up its San Fernando campus. The San Fernando Community Campus for Health and Education provides programs and outreach to at-risk populations, while the main hospital facility has dental, podiatry and vision care services for diabetics, Seliger said. A contributing factor for Henry Mayo putting a neo-natal intensive care unit on the drawing boards is women falling in the low-end of the Boomer generation having children, Bogdan said. Long-range plan The hospital has also invested in imaging equipment, will expand its breast cancer screening program and has put together a 25-year plan to address space needs. “Time is an issue as it takes seven years to get a new building up,” Bogdan said “We are trying to address that now for 2013.” Space needs have also been addressed at Providence Holy Cross where construction is expected to begin next year on a new 136-bed building. “Unless other hospitals chip in and do the same, with the size and the aging population, our plan said we will be full very quickly,” Carmody said. Having such a large population needing advanced medical care will spur a continued dialogue about the country’s health care system in general and its affordability. For unlike the image presented in the media, not all in the Baby Boom generation have excess money to spend. Like those in other age groups, there are Boomers who are uninsured, underinsured or have an insurance plan with a high deductible. Effect on hospitals As those Boomers age, the high deductible plans will have consequences for hospitals and physicians because the patients cannot afford the deductible and the cost gets written off as bad debt or charity. Those Boomers who have been healthy and can reach Medicare age, their health care may be settled, Carmody said. “But for those who need insurance from their mid-40s to 50s and on, the cost of health insurance is a major issue for the people we serve,” Carmody said. The Commonwealth Fund Survey of Older Adults released earlier this year bears that out. Twenty-three percent of respondents with household incomes of $60,000 or higher and more than 40 percent with household incomes between $25,000 and $59,999 reported bill problems or medical debt. According to 2004 census data, 6.6 million people between 50 and 64 years old had no insurance, a jump from 1.1 million in 2000. The AARP, however, looks at the debate over the cost and efficiency of health care in America as an opportunity for changes and not as a burden. Policy makers need to do the same, Beach said. “It is going to be a burden if we don’t do something about it,” Beach said. “If we don’t rethink the way we think about health care in this country.”

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