HONOKAA, HawaiiHale Hoola Hamakua broke ground on a $9.1 million expansion project to meet a growing need for long-term-care beds in the rural eastern part of Hawaiis Big Island. The project, to be completed in December 2009, will nearly double the hospitals capacity to 82 beds, including four emergency-room beds, eight swing beds and 70 long-term-care beds. The facility is part of Hawaii Health Systems Corp., the states network of 11 public hospitals.
OAKLAND, Calif.Kaiser Permanente and Stanford University Medical Center, Palo Alto, Calif., will establish a new heart research center with a roughly $4 million grant over four years from the American Heart Association. The aim of the center will be to define optimal care for patients with chronic heart failure and coronary heart disease. Kaisers Division of Research and Stanford will conduct large-scale studies to evaluate the effectiveness of surgery as well as pharmacological and medical-device interventions for cardiac patients.
NAPA, Calif.Queen of the Valley Medical Center is cutting 90 jobs, or 5% of the workforce, citing its $12 million deficit. The 167-bed hospital is facing financial woes because of inadequate reimbursement rates; increases in labor, supply and operating costs; mandatory seismic upgrades; and other regulatory requirements as well as bad debt and increases in charity care, hospital officials said. The hospital will close its skilled-nursing facility and relicense those 12 beds to acute-care beds in another cost-cutting move. In recent months, the hospital has renegotiated vendor contracts and started sharing resources with other facilities in the not-for-profit, nine-hospital St. Joseph Health System of Orange, Calif., among other measures. I am so grateful to our staff, Dennis Sisto, president and chief executive officer of Queen of the Valley, said in a written statement. They have been implementing several cost-reduction measures over the past several months to help our medical center remain focused on being a good steward of our resources.
PORTLAND, Ore.Oregon Health & Science University said it will purchase a private oncology practice for between $5.5 million and $7 million. Under the terms of the deal, Pacific Oncology, with five practices in the Portland area, will become part of the OHSU Cancer Institute. Pacific Oncologys nine physicians will receive faculty appointments at the OHSU School of Medicine in Portland. The practice also employs four nurse practitioners, and about 160 other staff, who treat about 8,000 adult cancer patients annually. What this means for cancer patients is that they can continue with the excellent care they receive at Pacific Oncology as well as have access to cutting-edge research and care through the OHSU Cancer Institute, said Bill Mooney, Pacific Oncologys president and chief executive officer, in a written statement.
SACRAMENTO, Calif.The California Supreme Court ruled that medical providers who deny care to gays and lesbians because of religious objections arent exempt from a state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Guadalupe Benitez, a lesbian patient, sued North Coast Womens Care Medical Group, Vista, and two of its physicians in 2001 after they said their Christian beliefs precluded them from performing her intrauterine insemination. Before the case made it to trial, the parties sparred over whether the physicians should be allowed to cite their First Amendment freedom of speech and religion as a defense, and the question was appealed to the states high court. The physicians, Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton, have argued that they refused the procedure because Benitez was unmarried, a status not protected by the California anti-discrimination law, and theyll be free to assert that defense at trial, according to the opinion. The California Medical Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the two physicians but later withdrew the brief amid a backlash from the gay and lesbian community, issuing a statement reaffirming the associations opposition to discrimination and claiming its legal position had been misinterpreted. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Permanente Medical Group and Southern California Permanente Medical Group submitted a brief in support of Benitez, arguing that physicians should be allowed to refuse a procedure only if the decision is based on a medically relevant characteristicfor example, a physician whose beliefs conflict with a request to withhold life-sustaining treatment should be free to transfer the patient.