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VALLEY FOCUS | Panorama City

Bill May Restrict Kaiser Quake Repairs

July 30, 1998|TOM SCHULTZ

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday with an amendment that could prevent Kaiser Permanente from using at other company facilities federal earthquake disaster funds earmarked for the Kaiser hospital in Panorama City.

Kaiser officials hope to consolidate--into one repair fund--$68 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to the Cantara Street hospital and $160 million in similar grants to two Kaiser facilities in Los Angeles, said Katherine Saux, a Kaiser spokeswoman.

This consolidation would allow administrators more discretion and flexibility in planning repairs, she said.

The bill and its amendment, which must still pass the Senate, would disallow such an arrangement with language specifically targeted at Kaiser.

"We haven't had an opportunity to look at what our fall-back position would be if this [amendment] goes all the way through," Saux said.

Against such a shift of funds, Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Mission Hills) offered the amendment as an attachment to a fiscal year 1999 appropriations bill that will provide various federal agencies, including FEMA, with money to operate.

Berman said in a statement that he believes a shift of FEMA funds by Kaiser could cause its Panorama City hospital to close. "This would force many low-income, minority and transit-dependent individuals to look elsewhere for vital medical services," he said.

Even if the Panorama City hospital closed to consolidate funds, Saux said Kaiser members in the northeast Valley would not lose services because Kaiser would form a partnership with another area hospital to provide care.

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