SAN GABRIEL VALLEY — Despite a last-ditch effort by Supervisor Gloria Molina to keep it alive, prospects look dim for a proposed 350-bed county hospital for the San Gabriel Valley.
Although county health officials wanted to drop the facility from a scaled-down, $1.8-billion countywide hospital building and renovation project, Molina persuaded them Tuesday to keep the East Valley Medical Center on the drawing boards, at least until December.
During that time, health officials will contact private hospitals in the region to see if a public-private partnership would be cheaper than the proposed $315-million medical center in the City of Industry.
Although pledging to continue lobbying for the hospital, project supporters confide that it probably will not be built.
"None of the cities want it," said Juan J. Wing, chairman of the Health Promotion Council. "The revenue proposal is to issue bonds. And that means taxes. And voters won't approve them. . . .
"Contracting (with private hospitals) is going to win, because of the (hospitals') lobbying. It's nothing but politics."
Robert Alaniz, Molina's press deputy, said the supervisor wants to ensure that private hospitals can provide quality care to San Gabriel Valley residents, particularly indigents. But he also admitted that funding the new medical center is an uphill battle.
"There's a lot of anti-government sentiment; there's going to be a lot of 'noes' on the ballot," Alaniz said.
The East Valley Medical Center was originally proposed as part of a $2.2-billion package of improvements to county-run hospitals. Included was reconstruction of County-USC Medical Center in East Los Angeles and a new hospital in Antelope Valley.
After approval by the supervisors in October, 1990, county officials hired a contracting firm to oversee the ambitious project. Months were spent finding a site in the San Gabriel Valley. More than 40 locales were examined and rejected before the process was narrowed down to sites in El Monte and the City of Industry. Officials and residents from both cities strongly objected to the hospital.
In March, the supervisors decided on a site next to the San Gabriel River Freeway (605) in the City of Industry. But the next month, with concern over the recession and voter reluctance to approve bonds to finance the project, health officials begin scaling back.
Irv Cohen, finance director for the Health Department, said the county contacted more than a dozen hospitals in the San Gabriel Valley willing to provide medical services for the county.
Those include Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center in Pomona, Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia, Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital in Whittier and San Gabriel Valley Medical Center in San Gabriel.
In a report to the supervisors, health officials said private hospitals are eager to accept county patients because their admissions are down. Increasing numbers of outpatient surgeries and numerous medical wellness plans have decreased the need for inpatient treatment, the report said.
The report also said the need for a 350-bed county hospital in the region appears to have declined to only 141 beds. Health officials, therefore, proposed dropping plans for the new hospital and relying on the contract system, a move Molina forestalled.
The plan approved by the supervisors Tuesday reduced the $2.2-billion budget to $1.8 billion, shaved the total area of county hospital facilities by 600,000 square feet and cut nearly 400 beds.