Who'll help Stockton?

John Taylor: April 08, 20080 Comments

The red ink at San Joaquin General Hospital is supposed to be $32 million deep by end of June. It's one of few remaining county-run hospitals in California. Now county supervisors and some area hospitals are sort of talking about what they can do/want to do to avert an inevitable death by poor-patient overload and fiscal starvation.

"The state is basically trying to make the county indigent," Supervisor Larry Ruhstaller told the Lodi News-Sentinel. "If we're that valuable, let's see how valuable we are to (the community's hospitals)," Supervisor Ken Vogel told the Stockton Record.

This is a Valley episode of the recurring Los Angeles nightmare -- county or nonprofit hospitals close their doors. The uninsured find their way to the remaining emergency rooms and shared misery rules the day.

The dialog and any hands-across-the water actions will be interesting to follow. At this point, it looks like Lodi Memorial, St. Joseph's Medical Center, Doctor's Hospital of Manteca and Kaiser Permanente may be at the table with San Joaquin General.

Solutions are in short supply (example: the failed California universal coverage push). Delaying tactics are the only politically feasible options (chucking rocks at the wolf at the door -- example: pending 10% across-the- board California budget cuts, including bucks for San Joaquin Valley hospitals).

Last week, the nonpartisan Families USA group published research showing that every day eight Californians die for lack of health insurance. Stockton, LA, Fresno, anywhere CA -- the dollar's in the toilet but the misery index looks swell.