Cash infusion will let TB ward open
September 29, 2010
Supervisors on Tuesday approved $1.1 million to staff a new ward for patients with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center, clearing the way for the facility to begin operating next year.
The supervisors’ decision to fund the unit came as a result of a motion by Supervisors Michael D. Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky. The money will be enough to staff the unit, set to open in March or April, for just half a year. Going forward, it will cost $2.2 million annually to staff the facility—less than was originally envisioned because of lower operating costs and more potential revenue from moving patients into the facility from other parts of the system. Even the reduced costs, down from $4.6 million originally estimated, will add to the department’s deficit but also will provide needed health care beds for infectious disease patients elsewhere in the overcrowded system.
“It does not make sense for this brand new building to sit empty [when] for a relatively small cost, it could be part of the solution to overcrowding in the hospitals and provide more appropriate care to these long-term patients,” the supervisors’ motion said.
Tuberculosis has been declining for years in Los Angeles County, but public health officials say it is important to remain vigilant. The new ward is seen as an important resource for treating some patients who require long-term hospitalization, including the homeless and those who live with small children and people with compromised immunized systems. The county lost its only dedicated tuberculosis ward when High Desert Hospital in Lancaster closed to inpatients in 2003.
The new Olive View facility also could be used to treat victims of a bioterrorism attack, and, on a more routine basis, for patients with infectious diseases other than tuberculosis. Such patients now often are confined to isolation rooms within intensive care units but could be relocated once the Olive View facility is up and running.
Carol Meyer, chief of operations for the Department of Health Services, said the decision to fund staffing for the new facility was a mixed bag: an added ongoing expense for an already financially-troubled system but, “from a patient perspective, it’s a positive.”