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Manteca to Kaiser: Restore hospital services

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POSTED June 4, 2014 1:46 a.m.

Manteca’s elected leaders want Kaiser to restore services to the healthcare firm’s Manteca hospital.

The resolution adopted by the City Council Tuesday calls for Kaiser Permanente to immediately bring back the following services to the Manteca Kaiser Medical Center on West Yosemite Avenue:

• cardiology/echocardiograms so patients needing them will not be transferred to Modesto.

• making ultrasound services available 24 hours.

• reopen the medical surgical unit.

• restoring a full function sub-acute surgical unit.

The resolution notes there are 80,000 members of Kaiser that rely on the Manteca hospital and therefore “have the right to a full functioning hospital in their area.” It also notes many of those patients are senior citizens and that they pay significant premiums for Kaiser coverage.

A packed crowd of Kaiser nurses and group members cheered the council decision made by Vice Mayor Steve DeBrum as well as John Harris and Debby Moorhead. Vince Hernandez had sponsored the agenda item but reclused himself due to a perceived conflict as a member of the governing board for Doctors Hospital of Manteca. Mayor Willie Weatherford was absent. 

Manteca residents spoke of their frustrations of going to the local Kaiser hospital for emergency services and then being transferred by ambulance to the Modesto hospital. Both the Manteca and Modesto hospitals operate under the same license. They contend some 1,600 patients have been transferred to Modesto from Manteca by ambulance since the reduction in services at the local hospital adding that tying up ambulances imperils local emergency response. However, almost all Kaiser transfers are done by American Medical Response and not Manteca District Ambulances that are the primary responders in the Manteca ambulance zone established by San Joaquin County.

One Del Webb resident indicated he was billed $6,900 for the ambulance transfer. Kaiser contended that no members are charged for the ride by ambulance between the Manteca and the Modesto hospitals.

“We need those services here,” Councilman Harris said.

Harris added his wife was pleased with Kaiser coverage and that in the coming months he’d probably become a Kaiser member too.

Moorhead agreed with Harris.

“I’m a Kaiser member and I’ve gone to the emergency room twice and each time I was transferred to Modesto,” Moorhead said. “When you get to an ER (emergency room), you expect for them to have the right equipment.”

Several nurses spoke saying the Kaiser’s policy of transferring patients in emergency situations — especially with heart issues — was endangering lives although they noted patients were stabilized before being transferred.

Manteca Kaiser Chief of Staff Dr. Bill King insisted no patient had been endangered by the transfer and that the Modesto hospital was better equipped to handle cardiac patients.

“The quality of care speaks for itself,” said King.

The California Nurses Association contends “Manteca is the new Richmond.” That’s in reference to an effort by Kaiser years ago to close the Richmond Kaiser hospital by having ambulances stationed outside the emergency room to transport patients that showed up directly to Oakland. The CNA said they successfully fought the closure of the Richmond Kaiser Medical Center.

“Once again, at Kaiser Permanente we continually evaluate and align our clinical resources to make sure they are where they are needed,” noted Kaiser Public Affairs Director Melanie Hatchel after the meeting. “We respect the views of the city council, but at the same time, it is important to look broadly at what has happened to services offered to members in the Central Valley as a whole over the past several years. With the opening of the Modesto Medical Center in 2008, we now offer a range of services to members in the Central Valley that were not available before that, including neonatal intensive care, cardiac catheterization and interventional radiology. Through the combined services of our Manteca and Modesto facilities, which operate under a single hospital license, we now offer entire range of high-quality care, including complex specialty care.”

The CNA disagreed.

“We are living in a time of spiraling healthcare costs,” said Ruth Somera, a Kaiser Manteca registered nurse in a CNA release. “The Manteca facility is the only Kaiser hospital in San Joaquin County and it has been stripped of vital services. Our patients pay a lot of premiums for services that are no longer available to them in their own county. We will continue to fight to restore these services for our community.”

“Kaiser continues to put our community, our patients, and our families at risk by not restoring these crucial services,” said Amy Glass, a Kaiser Modesto RN and Manteca resident. “Kaiser is abandoning the promise when they bought St. Dominic’s to maintain a full-service hospital provide to the Manteca community They have artificially created a slow death by eliminating services.”

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