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

Those who stick around San Francisco on long holiday weekends can enjoy a slower pace, uncrowded streets and beloved institutions like cable cars. <ins>(Kevin Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
These empty San Francisco streets: A holiday dream

We’re here because we can be, and because we have nowhere else to be

It’s disheartening to see that Bill Graham Civic’s marquee isn’t announcing upcoming concerts. (Screenshot/Bill Graham Civic Twitter)
A cruise through The City with the ghosts of rides past

I take my time and don’t even mind the occasional traffic jams

A ban on smoking or vaping in multi-unit buildings has drawn opposition from cannabis advocates, who say it would leave users with no legal place to consume a legal substance. (Shutterstock)
Cannabis group slams Yee’s proposed apartment smoking ban as ‘classist’

Legislation would impose fines of $1,000 a day on repeat violators

The most dangerous behaviors by drivers include failing to yield right-of-way at crosswalks, unsafe speeding and failing to stop at red lights or stop signs. <ins>(Ekevara Kitpowsong/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite, which supplies water to San Francisco, is among the concerns of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is undergoing a change of leadership. <ins>(Courtesy SFPUC)</ins>
Changes in leadership at SFPUC spark concern, hope for future water policy

Will agency’s new commissioner continue to support Big Ag?

Most Read