LOS ANGELES-A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order last week preventing the closure of Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Downey, Calif., a 207-bed specialty hospital for victims of strokes and traumatic injuries, as part of Los Angeles County's strategy for shoring up a gaping shortfall in its healthcare system. U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper also temporarily barred the county from cutting care to indigent patients at Rancho and eliminating 100 beds at County-USC Medical Center, Los Angeles, after an attorney for the county said the state should be named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit. The county had approved the cutbacks in January in an effort to save more than $75 million annually, but a coalition of public interest groups sued to block the cuts, arguing that they would harm the area's neediest residents. Another hearing is scheduled for this week. If Cooper's ruling ultimately holds, health officials said they would have to look elsewhere to make cuts, perhaps to the network of private health clinics that serve the uninsured, or even to emergency rooms. Sixteen county clinics were closed last year to save money. The county faces a $265 million shortfall by fiscal 2006-07.
PASADENA, Calif.-Tenet Healthcare Corp., Santa Barbara, Calif., said earlier this month it reached an agreement to sell its shuttered St. Luke Medical Center in Pasadena to the California Institute of Technology. Terms were not disclosed. Tenet said it closed the 166-bed hospital in May 2002 because volumes were declining. Tenet acquired the hospital in its 1997 purchase of OrNda HealthCorp, Nashville. Caltech, as the university is known, plans to conduct research in the 70-year-old facility, Tenet said.
CARLSBAD, N.M.-The Federal Trade Commission earlier this month settled price-fixing and restraint-of-trade allegations against 38-physician Carlsbad (N.M.) Physician Association in a consent decree that dissolved the physician organization and prohibited its former officials from negotiating with health plans on behalf of any physician for three years. The organization was formed in 1998 to help physicians bargain collectively with health plans and represented 83% of all primary-care physicians and 76% of all physicians in the Carlsbad area, the FTC said. The agency contended that the group's members were the highest paid physicians in New Mexico because of illegal contracting practices. Seven physicians who were board members or officers were named in the complaint, as was the group's executive director. They settled without admitting wrongdoing. The case is the sixth in the past 18 months in which the FTC alleged price fixing by physicians.