Birth center could face axe

Plans for a new birthing center at the county hospital — originally conceived as a revenue source — could be scuttled due to reductions in Medi-Cal reimbursements, leaving hundreds of expectant mothers to continue delivering their babies at surrounding hospitals.

The $9.8 million renovation to an unused wing of the San Mateo Medical Center, which was put out to bid in December, has been shelved until the county hospital board reviews the latest cost estimates, according to Board of Supervisors President Jerry Hill.

“I don’t see the birthing center penciling out [fiscally] in the future,” Hill said.

Originally expected to make money, the birthing center could now cost the medical center around $14 million a year due to possible cuts in Medi-Cal reimbursement for new health services, according to a county report. An alternate, and more difficult to realize, scenario that would require the county to negotiate a cost-sharing agreement with the state would mean essentially breaking even, according to the report.

The likely demise of the birthing center is an example of the chaos in the health care industry today, where a curveball by the state or federal governments on reimbursement rates can have wide-ranging impacts at the county level, Hill said. “It doesn’t look like it’s something we should take a chance on,” he said.

The medical center, which provides prenatal care for as many as 1,000 of the county’s 2,300 Medi-Cal births a year, has no obstetrics center. That forces expectant mothers to deliver their newborns at surrounding hospitals, often among doctors they don’t know, officials said. One of the goals of the renovation is to give women one continuous stream of care from before birth until after birth, a service for which a demand has been demonstrated, medical center spokesman Dave Hook said.

Prior to the reductions in Medi-Cal reimbursements — which took effect for the first time this year — medical center officials estimated that a birthing center would bring in hundreds of thousands a year, helping to somewhat offset more than $55 million in county subsidies for the public hospital each year, Hook said.

Finding new revenue sources as well as pressuring area nonprofit hospitals to increase their charity care giving has been a major focus for Hill, who sits on the county hospital board. The county estimates subsidies to the medical center will cost as much as $65 million in fiscal 2006-07.

The obstetrics renovation plan includes eight private postpartum rooms, an operating room for emergency C-sections and a level-2 intermediate care unit for babies, according to Hook.

ecarpenter@examiner.com</p>Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Dr. Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, on Monday said “We truly wish we could return to in-person learning for everyone.” (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD reopening plans still leave out most secondary students

SFUSD announces April return to in-person learning after reaching contract deal with teachers

(Examiner file photo)
Charter amendment effort would replace elected school board with appointed body

Critics of the San Francisco Unified School District board on Monday formally… Continue reading

Jill Bonny, owner of Studio Kazoku tattoo parlor in the Haight, tattoos client Lam Vo on Friday, March 5, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
No one was fighting for tattoo artists, so they started advocating for themselves

Jill Bonny has been tattooing in the Bay Area since 2000. Four… Continue reading

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes to The City's streets including Slow Streets closures to increase open space access and the Shared Spaces program, which allows businesses to use public right-of-ways for dining, retail and services. (Examiner illustration)
COVID is reshaping the streets of San Francisco

Walk down Page Street, which is closed to thru-traffic, and you might… Continue reading

(Go Nakamura/Getty Images/TNS)
Fully vaccinated? Here are the CDC guidelines for what you can do after receiving a COVID vaccine

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday issued its… Continue reading

Most Read