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LOCAL TRAUMA CENTER HELPED COUNTY FUNDS CUT INDIGENTS' RED INK.

Byline: Kathleen Sweeney Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors last week approved funds to help trauma hospitals not operated by county government, including Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, maintain trauma centers and pay for indigent care.

The board approved $5 million to reimburse hospitals for costs accrued in 12 months through Saturday. Supervisors also approved $800,000 to reimburse hospitals for patients who didn't have insurance.

Roger Seaver, chief executive officer at Newhall hospital, said a share of the funding will help the private hospital as it struggles to get back into the black.

``Having a trauma center saves lives,'' Seaver said. ``It's like the fire department. It's an infrastructure that needs to be funded.''

While the county funding is appreciated, it isn't enough to keep the Santa Clarita area's only trauma center running, Seaver said. Donations are the key.

``If it wasn't for that (donations), there's no way this hospital could maintain an emergency room,'' Seaver said.

The hospital's emergency room treats about 350 patients a year, Seaver said, and about 20 percent of them - including some unconscious when they arrive - lack insurance, forcing hospital officials to scramble for funds to pay for the care.

Then, once patients are admitted for intensive care, it costs about $4,000 a day to treat them, Seaver said. With each day, the price rises and can bring the average cost of a four-day stay to about $17,000.

``It's much higher than normal patient care,'' Seaver said.

The hospital has struggled the last year to manage debt from renovation and earthquake repairs, as well as to cover high operating costs not financed by insurance or county government. In January, the hospital borrowed $55 million through bonds to help pay down the long-term debt.

The hospital also recently cut back on services and laid off some employees, and at least 50 more positions will be cut July 1.

Assemblyman George Runner, R-Lancaster, is also trying to get about $3 million for the hospital included in the 2001 state budget. That money could help the hospital pay for the retrofitting required after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 25, 2001
Words:357
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