Monday, November 16, 2009

Public Hospitals and Health Systems: More on Contra Costa Health Services

In an attempt to share information with others about our publicly owned and operated health system- Contra Costa Health Services-, I thought I would pass along a message I received over the weekend. The following a message to our board and to all is a response from Dr. Walker about the article by Drew Voros about ours and other public systems in California. More facts about California's Public Hospitals can be found at

His response is as follows:

Dear Mr. Voros,

I want to thank you for your timely column today on the role of county hospitals in health reform. I am a practicing Family Physician for Contra Costa County Health Services since 1974, County Health Officer since 1983 and Health Director as well since 1995. I have also served as the Chair of the California Association of Public Hospitals, representing the 19 county hospitals in 15 of California's largest counties where 81% of Californians reside.

Although these hospitals comprise only 6% of California's hospitals, they provide half of all hospital care for the State's 6.6 million uninsured, 30% of inpatient care for patients insured by MediCal, and over 10 million outpatient visits.

Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and its 8 Health Centers throughout the county (reaching from Richmond to Brentwood) provide over 22% of the prenatal care and births in our county and over 430,000 outpatient visits. As you acknowledge in your column, we are daily seeing more and more patients who have lost their jobs, their health insurance and, often, their houses. Many have never been to a public hospital or clinic before and are grateful to find a source of health care in these turbulent times. The county owned Contra Costa Health Plan provides care to over 70,000 members, including those who voluntarily enroll covered by MediCal, MediCare, Contra Costa County Employee Insurance, private individuals and others. We are proud that over 9000 county employees and their dependents (like me and my family) trust their health care to our highly qualified physicians, nurses and other staff
The Health Plan also manages the care of nearly 10,000 low income uninsured individuals who receive care in our system through our Basic Health Care plan. An
important asset for the entire County is our UC Davis-affiliated Family Practice
Residency program, now training 39 Family Practice Residents from the nation's best
medical schools. Many stay on to practice in our community after finishing their training.

I agree a good place to start in considering ways to provide care to the many uninsured in our country is to bolster the Public Hospital and Community Clinic resources throughout the nation. The National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems (I am on the Executive Committee)is working with Congress and the Administration on just such a proposal. We are especially seeking support to be able to continue to provide care to more uninsured during the next 3years prior to any implementation of Health Reform in 2013. We anticipate increased demand for our services as more people lose their jobs and health insurance. It make a lot of sense for our country to build on its existing public assets to create expanded organized systems of
health care for the many who need it.

William B. Walker, M.D.,
Director and Health Officer, Contra Costa Health Services

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