ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. — St. Rose Hospital in Hayward has been struggling financially for years, and the county supervisors are trying to help it stay afloat as it tries to determine a longterm path toward sustainability.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 19, unanimously allocated $5 million to St. Rose Hospital to help it cover costs while it awaits the receipt of $17.65 million from the state’s distressed hospital loan program. Fifth District Supervisor Keith Carson voted in favor of the allocation, but said the county was gifting $5 million to the hospital, which has a structural problem in need of fixing.
“It does not solve the problem that St. Rose has,” Carson said. “I’m hoping sooner than later, as opposed to just continuously throwing money at St. Rose and not having a plan that restructures how they function, I’m hoping that we can get to that point so that we can have a more stable institution that’s providing the kind of services that are needed for the people in that area.”
St. Rose’s financial problems stem from the fact that it’s a safety net hospital serving a large number of Medi-Cal and uninsured patients. Scott Clay, with consulting firm Innova Group, has been conducting a study, set to be released in October, on how the hospital can become financially sustainable. He pointed to a few other areas that could be addressed, such as the 13-bed maternity ward, which usually has two to three patients despite taking up an entire floor of the hospital.
“That floor in particular is very, very low occupancy,” Clay said. “The other floors, about 40% occupancy on average.”
Those issues were exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a drop in patient numbers in hospitals across the country. Those patient volumes have not yet rebounded to pre-COVID levels at St. Rose. Clay said they were lower in fiscal year 2022-2023, which runs from October to September for the hospital, than at any other point in the past five years.
Clay said that can be attributed to a cyber attack that disrupted operations and referral patterns to the hospital. Similarly, St. Rose had enough cash on hand to cover a hundred days of operating expenses during fiscal year 2020, but with its reserves largely depleted, that’s now down to one day or less.
While supervisors expressed concerns about the hospital’s structural issues, they approved the $5 million allocation from the county’s Senate Bill 12 Maddy Emergency Medical Services Fund, established in 1988 to help offset the costs of uncompensated emergency care.
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 510-952-7455.