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Thursday, Sep 28, 2023

Northridge Hospital Owner Rebuffs Offer by Doctors

Doctors at Northridge Hospital Sherman Way Campus said their offer to buy the hospital and keep it running is being ignored by Catholic Healthcare West, as local politicians are calling this most recent planned closure symptomatic of a full-blown healthcare crisis. Leonard Feigenbyaum, director of radiology at the Sherman Way Campus, and vice president of the newly formed Valley Healthcare Alliance LLC said the group is able to offer CHW $13 million to purchase the hospital, which is scheduled to close at the end of the year. “We’re prepared to buy the hospital and run it, it can be managed and be made to stay open,” Feigenbaum said. “We don’t know why they won’t accept our offer, why they won’t negotiate.” The planned closure was the focus of a public hearing Oct. 12 in Van Nuys. Susan Whitten, spokeswoman for San Francisco-based CHW, said the non-profit company will not be changing its plans to sell $1.5 million of equipment to nearby Valley Presbyterian to help the hospital prepare for its increase in patients. “We had entered into an exclusive agreement with Valley Presbyterian, and we’re moving forward to ensure access to acute care and emergency services at Valley Presbyterian,” Whitten said. She said that the offer from Valley Healthcare Alliance was “just a simple proposal, not anything detailed in such a way that it could be evaluated seriously.” Whitten added that under market pressures Northridge and Valley Presbyterian, separated by only two miles, could not both survive. Jerry Conway, president of the Northridge Hospital Sherman Way Campus said that the hospital has continued to operate under a deficit and could not afford to stay open. Both hospitals serve a large portion of uninsured patients, and over 85 percent of the patients at each is covered by public insurance. Valley Presbyterian has said, however, that an increase in MediCal patients will allow the hospital to collect more revenue. Influx of patients Feigenbaum said that no matter what financial condition each of the hospitals may be in, Valley Presbyterian is simply not equipped to handle the influx of patients it is likely to see in the coming months. Valley Presbyterian spokeswoman Lisa Chakos-Knapp disputed that claim, saying the hospital is handling its increased emergency room patient load and working toward expanding its license from a 290-bed hospital to a 380-bed facility. Local politicians said that whatever transition plans Northridge and Valley Presbyterian have worked out, the CHW Sherman Way Campus still represents a healthcare system in peril. “Some people will die with each and every loss of a medical care facility within our community,” said state senator Richard Alarcon. Alarcon also questioned whether there had been a good faith effort to keep the hospitals emergency services open, and said he would be investigating whether the sale of hospital and equipment had proceeded lawfully. The entire hospital was originally scheduled to close by the end of the year, however, the emergency department was closed on Oct. 4 as directed by the Department of Health Services and its Emergency Medical Services Department because of a lack of specialty physicians. Lloyd Levine, State Assemblymember representing the 40th District said that hospitals are falling victim of ill-conceived state policies. He said that in order to help hospitals avoid losing money, he’d be sponsoring legislation that would direct the state to sell bonds with proceeds going toward state-mandated seismic retrofitting at California hospitals. Currently, hospitals are expected to pay for the improvements themselves. Conway has said that it would cost about $16 million for CHW’s Sherman Way Campus to make the improvements, costs that the hospital could not bear. Billions in costs “I don’t know whether it will be a success, but I intend to fight for it,” Levine said. “I want to absolutely assure that the quality of patient care is not compromised.” Seismic improvements are costing hospitals across the state billions of dollars. John Edelston, a member of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency, said that Levine’s efforts also may convince the state to increase its MediCal payments to Southern California Hospitals. Edelston said that in the last seven years, Southern California’s MediCal payment rates have increased by 15 percent, compared with a 40 percent increase in the San Francisco Bay Area and a 30 percent increase throughout the rest of the state. Faced with the oft-repeated and seemingly insurmountable difficulties in repairing the healthcare systems, Levine said that term limits have failed to give politicians enough time to solve these problems. “The effect of term limits has been the inability to solve some of these intractable problems,” Levine said.

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