The new year has brought with it a series of challenges.
We came into 2023 in the wake of an earthquake that struck Northwest California, leaving thousands without electricity but closing no hospitals. Then, fresh into the new year, strong storms pounded much of Northern California and the Central Coast. More rain is expected this week.
Then there’s Madera Community Hospital — the only general acute care hospital in Madera County — that closed not because of a storm, but pressures. St. Agnes and the Trinity Health System tried to help through a partnership. But the pressures of time, low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, the 2030 seismic mandate, and additional conditions from the attorney general’s office created an impossible situation.
And Madera isn’t the only hospital facing these pressures.
There is no “one-size-fits all” solution for California. An affiliation or partnership for Madera should look different than one in San Francisco, Sacramento, or Redding. We need flexibility and compassion from the state, and especially from the officials who can approve or deny partnerships, so our hospitals can meet their respective communities’ needs.
Hospitals will continue to face challenges throughout 2023. Financial pressures will loom large. There was no COVID-19 windfall. Most federal funding for the pandemic went to city, county, and state governments, not to the hospitals providing essential public services. As a result, over half of California’s hospitals currently have negative margins and their financial pressures are only growing:
- Medi-Cal rates haven’t increased in over a decade
- There are continued reimbursement delays from commercial insurance plans
- Seismic costs must be financed by individual hospitals
Through storms, earthquakes, a tripledemic, and numerous other financial and regulatory challenges, hospitals have been there for patients. But the financial and literal headwinds are strong, and we need our elected leaders to work with us to ensure that hospitals can continue to serve their communities.
Otherwise, like Madera’s residents, we’ll find ourselves driving in the wrong direction.