May 7, 2002
Good morning. My name is Leslie Bennett. I am here with my colleague, Janki Darity. We are Staff Attornies at Consumers Union. Consumers Union is the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. It’s mission is to test products, inform the public and protect consumers. We are members of the Community Health Assets Project, a national effort dedicated to preserving the charitable assets in conversions of nonprofit health entities.
We are here today because San Luis Obispo is at a critical juncture and we are concerned that the information needed to hold a Beilenson hearing is not available. We have written comments that we would like to enter into the record, but I will take a moment to briefly outline them.
Under California Health & Safety Code section 1442.5, this notice is inadequate because it does not contain a list of the proposed reductions or changes by service as the statute requires. Under the law, notice must include the amount and type of each proposed change.
Looking at what the notice says:
· Under medical-surgical, the county would discontinue operation of those services. No other information is provided about the changes, but the types of patients the county is supposed to be responsible for is included.
· Under emergency and walk-in clinic services, these would also be discontinued. Again, no description of the specific losses to the public is provided, but details of the EMS system and the capacity of other hospitals in the county are included.
· Under pharmacy, lab, and radiology services, there is no listing of specific changes, but for inpatients, an acknowledgment that inpatient psychiatric services will likely continue and with it a need for ancillary services. Here, the notice says that would come from the private hospital with which it affiliates, but we don’t know what hospital that is. For outpatients, again, no list for ancillary services is provided, but instead a description that they would be available to people with private health coverage. That is clear, but what of those people without it? Also, the notice suggests that the county could act as a purchaser for certain prescription drugs, but there is no detail about how that would happen.
This notice is insufficient under the statute and the Smith v. San Francisco case, both of which are attached to our comments. We urge you to obtain more detailed information as to the specific changes as the law requires before scheduling a Beilenson hearing and this notice falls far short. You have a duty, under the law to properly and continuously fulfill your responsibilities to serving the healthcare needs of the indigent population. You cannot do so and approve the notice before you. We urge you not to approve Item B-1.