February marks Black History Month, a timely recognition of the Black community’s invaluable contributions and enduring legacy. Although we should uplift voices from Black communities year-round, February reminds us to reflect on the struggles and triumphs of those who have fought for justice and equality.
In the 1993 film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays a man who repeats the same day over and over, hoping for a different outcome. As Groundhog Day approaches next week on Feb. 2, it may seem a little like the movie as many issues our hospitals previously faced are once again front and center this year. From seismic issues to ambulance patient offload times, regulatory oversight and overreach issues, to challenges with payers, many issues are repeating. The reality is they are resurfacing in a different environment, as hospitals confront escalating financial challenges, worsening workforce shortages, and an ever-increasing demand for health care services.
January is a time filled with hope as we look ahead to the new year, but it’s important to reflect on the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Jan. 3, 2024, marked the one-year anniversary of the closure of Madera Community Hospital. As the only general acute care hospital in Madera County, its closure drew attention to the significant financial challenges that most California hospitals face. Before Madera’s closure, many elected officials wrongly believed hospitals were flush with money and too big to fail, but the reality is that an estimated one in five California hospitals is at risk of closure, which means greater difficulty for patients to access health care.
What happened to Madera Community Hospital could happen elsewhere as hospitals in California continue to face major challenges, including:
As the Hospital Council team looks back on everything our hospital members have accomplished this past year, the first thing that comes to mind is the word resilience. Unfortunately, we started the year with the closure of Madera Community Hospital on Jan. 3, which drew attention to the significant financial challenges that hospitals face in California. Before Madera’s closure, many elected officials wrongly believed hospitals were flush with money and too big to fail, but the reality is over half of California’s hospitals have negative margins.
Hospitals are important to the fabric of our communities. They provide a refuge for people during times of need, and it’s important that we recognize the people behind them. Throughout all the unexpected disasters that life throws at us — wildfires, earthquakes, or even a pandemic — health care workers have continued to show up for their patients.
Nov. 8, 2023, marks the five-year anniversary of the Camp Fire in Butte County, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. The fire started when a faulty electrical transmission line ignited. The flames were fanned by high winds and spread quickly. What started as a small blaze forever destroyed a town and not only altered the landscape but the lives of everyone impacted by this disaster.
Our field is incredibly diverse, with hospitals each having different governance and funding structures serving very distinct parts of our incredible state. This is emblematic of California’s own diverse population. The vast array of circumstances affecting our hospitals makes it challenging to shape legislation that will equally help all hospitals statewide, and more must be done to utilize our diversity as a strength.
Mental Illness Awareness Week occurs every year during the first week of October, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the purpose is to “raise awareness, fight discrimination, and provide support.” Hospital Council also believes this week emphasizes how important mental health is to a person’s overall health.
Hospitals across California are confronting inflation, workforce shortages, and other financial challenges. In early 2023, the four associations that represent member hospitals in California committed to focusing on hospital financial stability.
Workplace violence has long been a problem for hospitals, and it’s an issue that both Hospital Council and the Hospital Quality Institute (HQI) take seriously. It’s only worsened in recent years and has severe consequences for the entire health care system.