Executive leaders from the North Bay Section convened on March 17. Hospital Council CEO Bryan J. Bucklew led with a summary of the challenges facing California hospitals. Bucklew noted specifically that 40% of hospitals were losing money prior to COVID-19 and another 20% were barely breaking even.
The question to present to our elected leaders is: How can hospitals, the epicenters for responding to COVID-19, maintain fiscal viability moving forward?
Bucklew was followed by Rony Berdugo, CHA legislative advocate, who noted that the looming recall campaign of Gov. Newsom will amplify the need for aggressive policy proposals and action. Berdugo noted that CHA’s primary priority for 2021 will be disaster preparedness and seismic mandates. Lou Meyer, president of LKM & Associates, discussed community paramedicine while the group considered potential applications in Sonoma County. Finally, the group welcomed Chad Hickerson, new CEO of Aurora Behavioral Health, and discussed the future of behavioral health in Sonoma County and beyond.
On March 10, the Redwood Coast Section held its first leadership meeting of the year. Carmela Coyle, CHA President & CEO, shared CHA’s top priorities for 2021. Emergency preparedness, in particular, resonated with the group, where several facilities are significantly at risk should current seismic mandates remain unchanged.
Maria Sperber, CHA legislative advocate, provided an update on 2021 legislative priorities, noting again that seismic is a high priority for CHA, and a new seismic bill is under construction. Other bills being followed closely by CHA include a presumptive workers’ compensation proposal, hazard pay for front-line workers, a health information exchange, and supplemental paid sick leave.
BJ Bartleson, vice president of nursing & clinical services for CHA, led a vaccination conversation in which the group echoed sentiments heard throughout the state — that vaccinators have been doing an admirable job protecting their communities and they need supply, not a third-party administrator.
Bartleson also facilitated conversation around the need for nursing educators and a potential shortfall of nursing staff, as many nurses may not continue in their profession following the challenges of working through COVID-19.
Other topics included community behavioral health needs, Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development regulations, obstetric program closures, and emergency department volumes.