Why our county hospital is worth saving
Valley Medical Center needs Measure A to remain region's health care lynchpin
I'm very concerned about the future of our outstanding county hospital, Valley Medical Center. If you have good health insurance, and if you live in the northern part of Santa Clara County, you may know almost nothing about this facility. Here are some of the things you should know:
•·One in four residents of Santa Clara County is served by Valley Medical Center (VMC).
•·The center is affiliated with the Stanford University and UC San Francisco schools of medicine, and has 180-plus Stanford and UCSF residents on its staff.
• The center is nationally known for its "centers of excellence" in burn treatment, spinal cord injury and rehab, and traumatic brain injury and rehab. If you're in an auto accident in Monterey, you'll probably be taken to Valley Med.
•·The center is the only Level 1 trauma center for pediatrics in the county, caring for premature infants from Silicon Valley and all of Northern California.
•·There has been a 40 percent growth in the center's patient population in just three years.
•·144 languages are spoken by Valley Med staff.
With its main hospital located on Bascom Avenue in San Jose, and with outpatient clinics located throughout the county, VMC is the only open door hospital in Silicon Valley. The center's mission is to provide quality health care services to everyone, with or without insurance, regardless of their ability to pay. Administrators at competing hospitals agree that VMC, with its centers of excellence and its open-door policy, provides the glue that holds the county's medical system together.
This won't be true five years from now if Valley Med is unable to find funds for the state-mandated seismic upgrade. The state imposed new seismic standards after 12 Southern California hospitals suffered earthquake damage in the 1994 Northridge quake, yet the Legislature provided no funding for hospitals to retrofit their buildings by the 2013 deadline.
The VMC's main building, completed in 1999, meets California standards. But its older building, which houses more than 250 of it 524 beds, was built 40 years ago and must be replaced. Since the cost of replacement amounts to roughly $2 million per bed, hospitals have been closing at an alarming rate; more than half in California are operating in the red.
This leads us to Santa Clara County Measure A on the Nov. 4 ballot, an $840 million bond measure to replace the older part of the hospital. A two-thirds vote is required to pass the measure. If the bond measure does not pass, and the hospital is forced to close half of its beds, then the remaining 250 beds would not be enough to justify running a burn and trauma center. These "centers of excellence" would disappear from our community.
I hope we won't let this happen to one of our county's chief treasures. To learn more about Valley Med go to www.vmcfoundation.org. Or contact Chris Wilder, executive director of the foundation, and request a tour of the facility for your family or small group.
Jane Bahr was director for health care of the Mountain View-Los Altos League of Women Voters from 2006 to 2008, and participated in a task force on Santa Clara County health care last year. She lives on Redcliff Court.