Virtually any story in today's news, whether global, national or local, has a connection to health care. There are often "six degrees of separation" or fewer, linking our daily lives and international events to America's health care system.
Whether there is a threat of mass casualty from terrorism, flu season or trauma care for the victims of a vehicle accident, hospitals are the backbone of our community's well being. In fact, they operate in the same manner as other essential public services such as fire and police. And the public assumes that these venerable institutions will be ready and waiting, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to meet our community's health needs with the highest level of care and quality. While San Diego hospitals have always been ready, they face constant challenges.
While we can relax knowing that within hospital walls, dedicated health care professionals are ready for any task, hospital officials share public concern about rising health care costs and quality standards. Hospitals are uniquely qualified to deal with the delicate balance of providing the highest quality care and controlling rising costs, but must participate in the decisions shaping the future of health care delivery and cost.
Hospitals are more than bricks and mortar, more than the technology they house. Hospitals save lives. And the life saving staff and services that produce medical miracles are perceived by the public as a right. Although reimbursement for care has been increasingly inadequate to cover the costs of providing care, San Diego hospitals remain devoted to continuous improvement of health services. Through work force investments, technological advances and a commitment to quality improvement, hospitals in San Diego are dedicated to meeting the needs of our growing population.
Simultaneously, they are facing the challenges of a severe work force shortage, chronic underfunding by Medicare and Medicaid, a staggering number of uninsured adults and children, rising costs of pharmaceuticals and advanced technology, mandatory seismic retrofits and other unfunded mandates, and increasing pressures on emergency departments, often the single source of care for many.
Through periodic updates in this column, we will explore major issues facing hospitals and health care in San Diego. No one is more than a few degrees of separation from relying on a medical miracle, and the welfare of our hospitals is essential to the foundation of our community's health.
Escoboza is president and CEO of the Healthcare Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties, a nonprofit organization representing more than 40 hospitals, health systems and physician groups in the two-county area.